Operationalizing Trade and Sustainable Development Chapters of trade agreements

Research Paper by Matthew Hanrahan



Improving trade and sustainable development chapters of EU trade agreements

Following the introduction of sustainable development chapters in European Union (EU) free trade agreements (FTAs) over a decade ago, questions linger about their efficacy. While they are certainly clear statements of the EU’s aspirational standards in the fields of labour rights, environmental standards and human rights, there are concerns that they are not effective in certain instances. Further, there is no mechanism to ensure that these standards are respected within the free trade agreement. I argue that the forthcoming EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement puts an acute focus on the need to improve the actionability of sustainable development chapters of EU trade agreements. I propose two solutions. First, the EU should strengthen the way it engages on ex-ante provisions by agreeing implementation plans, with clear oversight mechanisms. Second, the EU should allow the dispute resolution mechanism to apply to sustainable development chapters, in a limited fashion.


About the author

Matthew Hanrahan holds a master’s degree in EU law from KU Leuven and a bachelor's degree in law with history from University College Dublin. His areas of expertise include European constitutional law and EU trade law. He has worked as a legal researcher for the Euthority project, a Schuman trainee at the European Parliament, and as an intern in a commercial legal practice in Ireland. In 2017, he placed first at the Irish National Negotiation Competition.

#sustainability #mercosur #Trade #EUGreenDeal #EU #climatecrisis