The EU has an obligation to ensure that the trade agreements it implements are not harmful to human rights abroad. In order to do so, the EU should conduct human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) and take all necessary measures (including adapting or renouncing an agreement and taking flanking measures) to prevent trade and investment agreements from impeding upon the enjoyment of human rights in other countries. Such an obligation is grounded in both international and European law.
When the European Commission refused to carry out a human rights impact assessment prior to negotiating the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, FIDH promptly filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman who found the Commission guilty of maladministration. In the wake of this landmark decision, the Commission adopted new guidelines on the analysis of human rights impacts in impact assessments of its trade-related policy initiatives. FIDH provides input to the HRIAs that the EU now carries out.