EU-Egypt: Official report underlines human rights risks in new trade and investment treaty

On 16 may 2014, Ecorys, the consultant mandated by the EU to assess the impacts of a future DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement) between the EU and Egypt, published its interim report. For the first time, the report raised with no ambiguity the risks to human rights. It concluded that should the treaty fail to include the relevant clauses and mechanisms, should the mitigation adding measures being insufficient or badly implemented and should the EU fail to use trade negotiations as leverage to obtain improvements in the country, adverse impacts on human rights would occur, the capacity of Egypt to legislate in favour of human rights would decrease, and the treaty would lead to a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ effect in human rights protection in order to remain competitive. Adverse impacts that may result from the treatment given to international businesses and investors and the eventual inclusion of Investor-State Dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms were also pointed out. Based on experience drawn from previous Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) concluded by the EU, the report insists on the fact “that much depends on the degree to which the human rights provisions are upheld and backed by clear sanction mechanisms in case of violations”, adding that "strong legal mechanisms of the same binding nature are necessary for the human rights just like for the trade relations". In this, the report echoes FIDH’s warning that the EU must monitor investments and carry-out an in-depth revision of its negotiations process and the legal provisions of trade and investment treaties to ensure compliance with human rights obligations. The report highlighted concerns with civil society participation caused by current restrictions in freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and the unstable political climate in Egypt.

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