The EU trade and Investment Agenda: quashing the aspirations of the Arab Spring?

Roeline Knottnerus, “The EU trade and Investment Agenda“, Transnational Institute, 26 March 2013

The EU’s launch of negotiations for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs) with four Arab countries in transition – Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia – looks set to entrench an economic model that was one of the root causes of the Arab Spring.
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Through DCFTAs, the EU is now pushing to extend and consolidate its preferential trade relations with these countries. But many civil society organisations are concerned about the risks that the ‘investment protection chapters’ of these agreements pose for the Deauville countries – in terms of their freedom to set their own policy, and promote inclusive growth and sustainable development.

Since the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the responsibility for negotiating investment issues has shifted from individual EU member states to the central European level. This means the EC can now negotiate ‘investment chapters’ with Free Trade Areas such as the Deauville Partnership countries. A key element of investment agreements are investment dispute settlement clauses. These grant transnational corporations the right to sue governments before international investment tribunals over policy measures that potentially damage their profitability. …

The neoliberal economic model which the Agadir countries have been pushed to adopt for more than 30 years helped fuel this discontent by failing to raise standards of living and provide employment and social justice for populations. Alarmingly, the DCFTA negotiations now carry the threat that this failed model will be strengthened and continue to dictate trade and investment relations between the EU and its Southern Mediterranean neighbours.

Read the full article here.