No investment agreement can be more important than defending human rights. The EU is duty-bound to insist on a strong and enforceable human rights clause.

In view of this week’s plenary session of the European Parliament, industriAll Europe has joined a coalition of 36 civil society organisations (CSOs) that have launched a joint appeal to the European Institutions calling for the inclusion of enforceable human rights clauses in the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI).

In the letter, the CSOs express “grave concern” at the omission of a human rights clause from the discussion about the agreement and its final text. They state that the omission: “sends a signal that the European Union will push for closer cooperation [with China] regardless of the scale and severity of human rights abuses carried out by the Chinese Communist Party, even when Beijing is in direct and open violation of international treaties and continues to refuse to allow international monitoring of the human rights situation.”

The letter is addressed to the President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen; the President of the European Council, Mr. Charles Michel; the Commissioner for Trade, Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis; the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mr. Josep Borrell; the President of the European Parliament, Mr. David Sassoli; and Members of the European Parliament.

Alluding to both the growing evidence of forced labour and various European Parliamentary Resolutions on the subject of forced labour in Tibet and Xinjiang, the CSOs conclude that: 

“It is evident therefore the European Union has a Treaty obligation, as well as a moral duty, to stand by its founding principles of democracy, rules of law and the universality of human rights in its negotiations with the People’s Republic of China. This is an obligation not only to the people suffering oppression and gross human rights violations, but also to uphold the international rules-based order.”

They provide the following recommendations:

“We call upon the European Union and its Institutions to ensure China ratifies core Human Rights Conventions before entering in the Agreement, mainly the ICCPR, and core ILO Conventions.

“The agreement should also include a human rights clause. This should be introduced via a Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter that uses binding language and provides for effective enforcement mechanisms in case of violation, the creation of an EU Domestic Advisory Group and effective monitoring and complaint mechanisms on human rights that can been seized by the affected populations and NGOs defending human rights. This mechanism should contribute to ensure the agreement will be implemented in conformity with international human rights law.

As a matter of transparency and participatory process, we urgently press the European Institutions to adhere to maximum transparency in the further negotiating process to allow for proper and informed public and parliamentary debate.”

Judith Kirton-Darling, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe comments:

“The EU-China Agreement on Investment is of particular interest to workers in the sectors that we represent. It is meant to provide answers to many of the trade and investment imbalances that have been harmful for EU industries and we are following it closely. But no investment agreement can be more important than defending human rights. The EU is duty-bound to insist on a strong and enforceable human rights clause. We insist on it and give our full support to the coalition of trade union and civial rights organisations that have launched the joint appeal. Together, we will hold the EU accountable.” 

Luc Triangle, industriAll Europe's General Secretary adds:

“IndustriAll Europe takes action in many sectors to secure a level playing field in international trade. Upholding environmental standards, social and trade union rights as well as human rights in general is key to achieve this level playing field. IndustriAll Europe will continue to advocate full respect of human rights wherever we discuss international trade. It is our responsibility to workers in Europe and throughout the world.”

Read the Joint Appeal on the EU-China Investment Agreement in full.
Contact: Andrea Husen-Bradley (press and communication)