CONCORD delegation composed of Isabelle Brachet (ActionAid), Johannes Trimmel (President) and Seamus Jeffreson (Director) met with European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, upon her invitation. The meeting was focused on specific issues relating to the linkages between trade, and sustainable development and human rights.

CONCORD delegation raised the fundamental point that economic growth (and trade liberalization) cannot be seen as the cure to sustainable development and inequalities. Commissioner Malmström agreed that more is needed indeed for examples in terms of infrastructures or governance, all the tools of EU relations and cooperation need to be used in a more intelligent way.

The delegation shared preliminary comments on Malmström’s new trade and investment strategy, highlight positive aspects (human rights, tax avoidance, fair trade) as well as offering critical feedback on the crucial omission of elements relating to women’s empowerment and gender equality in the strategy. Commissioner Malmström expressed openness to CONCORD’s proposals on this.

CONCORD also commented that while the new strategy concentrates mainly on global agricultural supply chains, local food systems and short circuits – and smallholder farming – are key for food security in developing countries. The delegation therefore asked that trade rules do not impede progressive public procurement and the introduction of special measures to support smallholder farmers and the right to food. Commissioner Malmström acknowledged the complexity of the issues and assured that she is collaborating with Development Commissioner Mimica with the objective to focus on some areas and countries where the EU can make real progress.
The problem of power imbalance and the need for binding mechanisms to hold European business accountable for human rights violations was also raised by the CONCORD delegation. In response, Commissioner Malmström referred to the ongoing negotiation for a conflict minerals regulation and she hoped the mechanism foreseen in this regulation may serve as a model in other fields.

Furthermore CONCORD delegation underlined the need to improve impact assessements of trade and investment policy and agreements, notably focusing on impacts on gender and impacts on land use and changes. Commissioner Malmström that further “guidelines/framework” for impact assessment will be developed. She’s discussing with the EEAS how to better involve EU delegations in monitoring and assessing impacts in countries. She is eager to hear CONCORD’s ideas on this. She did not provide a clear response on whether an updated impact assessment for the Economic Partnership Agreement with West Africa will be undertaken.

CONCORD is thankful to Commissioner Malmström for this initiative and will follow up in the new year as suggested with proposals and ideas building on CONCORD members‘ expertise and experiences in specific areas: gender, impact assessment, supply chains.