Ensuring the Trade Bill protects human rights, the environment
28 April 2018
The Trade Bill before the UK parliament is of key importance for the country’s relations with Peru (and other countries) post-Brexit. Trade legislation these days covers a wide range of issues that include labour rights, indigenous rights and environment protection. Protection of these rights need to be assured (and arguably enhanced) in any future trade deal with Peru, while a proper system of sanctions needs to be in place to prevent non-compliance.
Along with ABColombia, the Peru Support Group this week held a meeting in the UK parliament to press MPs and members of the House of Lords to push for any new trade legislation to contain adequate protection for the rights currently included in the EU-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Javier Jahncke, from Peru’s Red Muqui, spoke of the importance of trade legislation in ensuring respect for indigenous rights, especially in terms of protecting land rights. Among the various parliamentarians present was Baroness Coussins, the PSG president.
Even though the FTA has so far failed to provide adequate protection from the negative impacts of extractive development, the Trade Bill (as it currently stands) promises to be a poor substitute for the European legislation.
As Louise Winstanley from ABColombia explained, the Trade Bill will reduce the power of the UK Parliament to scrutinise the workings of trade relations with Peru (and other countries). Rather it will translate the powers currently in the hands of the European Parliament to Whitehall departments, not to more politically accountable UK parliamentary institutions. It will give much more power to ministers, not to MPs.
The Trade Justice Movement (TJM) is calling on Parliament to amend the Trade Bill in such ways as to ensure that trade deals are subject to:
the right of Parliament to set a thorough mandate to govern each and every trade negotiation post-Brexit;
full public consultation in the setting of that mandate;
full transparency in the process of negotiations;
the right of Parliament to amend and reject trade deals; and
the right of Parliament to review trade deals and/or withdraw from them.
Most developed countries incorporate many or all of these points into their trade legislation. In the United States, for example, Congress has to ratify all trade deals. There are also procedures to guarantee public consultation and full transparency. These need to be enshrined in future UK legislation.