September 18
2021
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Anjum Shabbir
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13th July 2020
Consumer, Health & Environment External Relations & Trade Institutional law

Inquiry into Commission for failure to update a Sustainability Impact Assessment re Mercosur-EU trade agreement by EU Ombudsman

The EU’s Ombudsman O’Reilly has opened an inquiry into why the European Commission did not finalise an updated Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) before the conclusion of the EU-Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) free trade agreement (which has been under negotiation for 20 years and aims to remove barriers to trade in Mercosur markets) in June 2019.

The complainants – five civil society organisations: the Veblen Institute, the Nicolas Hulot Foundation, Clientearth, Fern and the International Federation for Human Rights – argue that by not taking this step the Commission disregarded its own guidelines on SIAs and breached the EU Treaty, which contains sustainability goals for all EU trade. The SIA would have allowed for examination of the agreement’s human rights, social and environmental impacts (including deforestation of the Amazon, use of dangerous pesticides in farming or rights of indigenous population when negotiating it).

The complainants also raised concerns about the fact that the interim impact assessment was not published when public consultations on the trade negotiations were ongoing and now that it has been published (this month, one year after the end of the negotiations) it does not contain the latest information. That report finds that the trade deal’s effect on deforestation depended largely on whether Brazil decided to enforce forest protections.

The Ombudsman has sent further questions to the Commission, including how it intends to use the final report and whether the standard procedure for SIAs was followed.

The Commission has three months to respond.

View the Ombudsman’s website here.

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