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How our response to EU Trade Policy review went beyond Brexit - header.jpg

How our response to EU Trade Policy review went beyond Brexit

IOSH has responded as an international body to a major review of EU Trade Policy launched by the European Commission in June.

The Commission’s consultation focused on ‘A renewed trade policy for a stronger Europe’ and posed 13 questions as part of an attempt to build consensus around a fresh direction for EU trade policy. This is in light of new global challenges, including lessons learned from the coronavirus crisis. The results of the consultation will feed into a communication to be published towards the end of the year.

In looking to form a trade and investment policy that supports economic recovery, high-quality job creation, protection from unfair practices and a coherent approach to sustainability, climate change, the digital economy and security, the consultation gave special focus to:

  • building a resilient and sustainable EU economy after the Covid-19 pandemic
  • reforming the World Trade Organisation
  • creating global trade opportunities for businesses, particularly small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • maximising the contribution of trade policy to addressing key global challenges, like climate change, sustainable development and the digital transition
  • strengthening trade and investment relationships with key trading partners
  • improving the level playing field and protecting EU business and citizens.

Basing its answers to the Commission’s 13 set questions on our response to this year’s UN-WTO Policy Hackathon on Model Provisions for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic in Regional and other Trade Agreements, IOSH recommended that to support socially responsible trade and sustainability, trade agreements should include a minimum level of OSH regulations; upward harmonisation of regulatory standards and practice; effective enforcement of regulations; implementation of international standards; provision of OSH assistance, capacity building and cooperation; and OSH risk management, transparency and civil society involvement.

On epidemics and pandemics, IOSH called for trade deals to cover a commitment to early warning and contagion prevention systems (use of test, trace and isolate); supply chain mapping and support for vulnerability to infectious diseases; plus safe working during a pandemic and return to work after lockdowns.

Other highlights from our consultation response included calls for:

  • SMEs to be given more government/public support and investment to help them deliver occupational safety and health. This can potentially yield multiple benefits, such as improved workforce health, stronger business continuity and more sustainable economies
  • All trade to be socially responsible, with a race to the top on labour provisions and human rights. Investment is needed in OSH capacity to provide assurance against supply chain disruption, as well as facilitate the green economy, modern infrastructure and new health and social care systems
  • Trade policy that designs-in OSH at the concept stage of major infrastructure developments and project investments, making it more cost-effective than seeking to remedy deficiencies further down the line and also more likely to secure socioeconomic benefits – the London 2012 Olympic Park development was cited as a good practice example of delivering on time, to budget and without fatality
  • Renewed focus on sustainable corporate governance and business human rights covered by due diligence requirements
  • A human-centred and ethical focus to be given to Artificial Intelligence, to protect people’s personal data and privacy and to avoid issues of bias and over-surveillance
  • The EU Trade Policy Review to explore how civil society and global professional bodies, such as IOSH, can help the EU oversee the delivery of improved OSH, through strengthened due diligence and transparency and socially responsible trade and investment decisions.

You can read the full IOSH consultation response.

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Jeremy Waterfield
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