CLC – ETUC joint statement on the trade and sustainable development chapter in CETA

September 11, 2018

Trade unions in the EU and Canada are united in our call for progressive trade deals that promote decent jobs, protect and enhance labour rights, protect public services and lead to fair distribution of wealth. We worked together throughout negotiations on CETA to call for the deal to respect these objectives.

CETA has been provisionally applied since September 2017. Both the EU and Canada agreed to an early review “with a view to the effective enforceability of CETA provisions on trade and labour and trade and the environment” as stated in the Joint Interpretative Instrument (JII) at point 10.[1] However, no progress has been made in this regard.

In July 2017, the European Commission launched a consultation on the implementation and enforcement of Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters in EU Free Trade Agreements. The ETUC replied to the consultation in October 2017. The Commission eventually issued a paper outlining 15 action points to revamp the TSD chapter. However, the ETUC deeply regrets that the Commission has brushed away the possibility of introducing a sanction mechanism in the case of persistent breaches of labour rights within EU trade agreements, as has been consistently proposed by the ETUC and other stakeholders.

We note that Canada has been committed to a sanctions-based approach regarding labour rights in its free trade agreements. The EU’s inaction in reviewing CETA is already undermining effective enforceability of labour rights by Canada in third countries with which the EU and Canada have free trade agreements. The EU should finally start to engage seriously to ensure that commitments made by both parties in the TSD chapter to respect core ILO standards and promote the Decent Work agenda become effectively enforceable.

The EU cannot continue to delay reviewing the TSD chapter. Commitments were made by the EU and Canada in the JII to pursue fairer and more progressive trade and investment agreements. The ETUC and CLC call on the EU to join Canada and honour the commitment taken in the JII and start the review of the trade and sustainable development provisions as soon as possible.


[1] Review and Stakeholder Consultation: a) Commitments related to trade and sustainable development, trade and labour, and trade and environment are subject to dedicated and binding assessment and review mechanisms. Canada, the European Union, and its Member States are fully committed to make effective use of these mechanisms throughout the life of the agreement. Furthermore, they are committed to initiating an early review of these provisions, including with a view to the effective enforceability of CETA provisions on trade and labour and trade and the environment.

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