SUNBIZ

Disguised Barriers To Trade Deals

The scope of trade agreements are expanding. Increasingly, social and political issues are being included in formal trade agreements, says Permanent Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Shaheen Ali. Mr
10 Dec 2014 10:02
Disguised Barriers To Trade Deals

The scope of trade agreements are expanding. Increasingly, social and political issues are being included in formal trade agreements, says Permanent Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Shaheen Ali.

Mr Ali has stressed the inclusion of these issues could be used as a disguised barrier to trade.

He made these comments while presenting at the 16th Attorney-General’s Conference held over the weekend at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa.

“Trade Agreements try to directly address social issues such as labour standards, environment standards, democracy and good governance, when it is clearly not the best or the most competent mechanism to address those issues,” he said.

“These non-trade issues have been used in the past to discourage and, at times, stop trade, especially from developing countries who are often coerced to comply with standards that are above or outside international benchmark. Often developing countries do not have the capacity or the resources to implement standards being demanded.

“Fiji’s position is to not support such direct inclusions, as trade agreements are not the best modality to progress such issues.”

For example, specialised UN bodies and the related international conventions are more appropriate mechanisms to progress key social issues.

The EPA

Mr Ali said in the case of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, inclusion of human rights, democracy was strongly opposed. This was not just by Fiji, but all members of the ACP Group.

“We opposed this not because we did not believe in those principles – but a trade agreement or an economic partnership was not the right mechanism to progress those issues,” he said.

“The provision on political issues gave EU the power to suspend trade if it disagreed with Fiji’s or any other party’s political status – as determined by the EU.

“There are no mechanisms for an independent expert body to make a determination on whether a violation has occurred.

“These provisions were especially detrimental as it allowed for trade sanctions to be used as a measure if the EU believed that a country was not complying – to what in their opinion – was good governance and democracy”.

“This is against international trade law – under World Trade Organisation and is to be avoided at all costs.

“Trade Sanctions in any scenario is counterproductive and almost always affects the most vulnerable, such as, the factory workers, the farmers, the women and lower income families.”

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