The European Parliament puts a brake on negotiations of the GSP trade scheme

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Dursun Aydemir / Anadolu Agency

The European Parliament has paused talks with the European Commission and the Council to prevent migration conditionality from being introduced in a review of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences. The news followed intense advocacy by FIDH, pointing to the illegality of such a clause in trade arrangements with developing countries.

27 June 2023. Negotiations among EU institutions to review the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) have come to a temporary stalemate. Following FIDH’s longstanding calls on the matter, European Parliament representatives have been staunch in demanding the removal of migration conditionality from the proposal.

Since 1971, the GSP has been the EU’s preferential trade arrangement for over 60 developing countries, whereby they need to pay lower import duties when exporting to the EU. The current GSP regulation expires at the end of 2023 and the negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council took off in January 2023. The new regulation should have been in effect between 2024 and 2033.

In two statements, the Chair of the Committee on International Trade and the Rapporteur on the GSP set a red line on making preferential trade access conditional on countries’ ability to return and readmit migrants. The clause in the European Commission’s initial proposal received opposition from MEPs already in 2022.

FIDH welcomes the news of the disagreement over an unjust clause, following months of advocacy on this issue. The Federation has repeatedly pointed to the illegality of the proposal under international trade law, as was also confirmed by an independent legal opinion from the University of Amsterdam’s Law School. In March and June 2023, FIDH also wrote letters to the Council of the EU and the European Parliament, stressing how this type of conditionality defeats the purpose of the GSP and does not make sense for the protection and promotion of fundamental rights.

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