What a democratic trade policy after Brexit would look like

Thursday, 15 June, 2017

A new discussion paper from campaign group Global Justice Now has set out ten principles that could underpin a positive and progressive vision of the UK’s trade policy after Brexit.

The paper is being released in the run up to the Queens Speech which had been speculated to include a bill setting out the basis for trade deals after Brexit.

Ten alternatives to a corporate trade agenda  argues that: “As the UK looks to start making its own trade policy when it leaves the EU, there is a blank slate. If we do not seek to fill it with trade policy from the perspective of justice and rights, it will be filled by others. Those of us who believe in a more just and equal world for everyone need to start building an alternative vision of trade. One that is both open, international, collaborative and local and democratic.”

Jean Blaylock, trade campaigner with Global Justice Now said:

“It’s crucial that UK politicians and negotiators pursue a radically different vision of trade in the wake of Brexit. Too many politicians have given unquestioning support for toxic trade deals like TTIP in the past. We need to start a discussion about how we could change trade deals so that they complement and support the rest of society, and provide the space to enable people to build economic alternatives.”

The ten principles listed in the paper are:

1) Trade agreements should comply with human rights, labour standards, environmental standards and climate commitments, and if there is a conflict, trade rules should always be subordinate. 

2) Trade agreements should focus on trade in goods and not be used to set rules for matters beyond trade. Things such as patents, government buying standards, domestic regulation, migration, investment or data privacy should be excluded from trade agreements and any international rules should be set in the various intergovernmental organisations specialising in these issues.

3) Public services should be protected in trade agreements with strong, broad exclusion clauses, modelled on existing exclusions for security concerns.

4) Trade agreements should not include ‘corporate courts’ (Investor State Dispute Settlement or ISDS) which give foreign companies special legal rights outside of the national legal system.

5) Trade agreements should include mechanisms for individuals, groups and communities to bring grievances over harm caused by the trade agreements. 

6) Trade agreements should only be negotiated when there are adequate, plans for compensation and alternative decent work for those who lose out as a result of a trade deal. When agreements are between developed and developing countries, the developed countries should provide finance for this.

7) Trade agreements must recognise the legitimate need for space to make policy in the public interest through industrial, agricultural, welfare, technology and other developmental policies, and protect this space with strong, broad exclusion clauses modelled on existing exclusions for security concerns.

8) Trade agreements should ensure tariffs and trade preferences take social and environmental considerations into account, so that goods with less environmental impact and higher social welfare receive greater preference.

9) Trade agreements should commit countries to raising standards to the highest, not lowest, denominator, including meeting human rights, labour, environmental and climate obligations. 

10) Trade policy and trade negotiations should be guided by parliament, with the ability to scrutinise, amend or stop trade negotiations, and should be based on meaningful public consultation. Trade agreements must be debated and voted on by parliament.

Photo: Flickr/Anthony Quintano