This study is an attempt o reconcile the ambition to green EU’s bilateral free trade agreements (EU FTAs) and the realism of trade negotiations. Our main argument is that between seemingly conflicting views between “idealist greens” and “realistic negotiators”, a ridge line exists which could bring EU trade policy far closer and supportive to its environmental commitments, within the given EU FTAs modus operandi.

Key Messages

  • Last European elections and the emphasis placed by the new European Commission on the Green Deal make it difficult for the European Commission to sign a FTA, which would not explicitly improve signatory countries’ climate and environmental performance. 
  • Against this backdrop, we argue that the poor environmental performance of EU FTAs lies as much in the absence of clear deliverables assigned to the dedicated sustainable development chapters as in the lack of sanction mechanisms. Assigning environmental substantive objectives to EU FTAs and transforming them into a performance-based vehicle is our first recommendation. 
  • We secondly argue that there is some room and a political window to reform EU FTAs, so as to reconcile some of the propositions for greening EU FTAs with the historical EU approach. We lay out a logical order, starting from the definition of clear environmental objectives and deliverables, to the formulation of a detailed action plan, which include a specific investment treaty or investment chapter explicitly designed to perform on environmental accounts.
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