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Trade agreements should also be used to protect the environment and human rights, says PACE committee

New trade and investment agreements should contain comprehensive provisions on sustainable development and the protection of fundamental rights, with strong enforcement which is commensurate with protecting investors, PACE’s Social Affairs Committee has said.

Approving a report by Geraint Davies (United Kingdom, SOC), the committee pointed out that investment protection provisions in trade treaties are often used to “shield the interests of private enterprises rather than the public interest”.

Such agreements should be used as “tools to promote democratic norms and human rights, including social rights, on a global scale”. To this end, Council of Europe member states should “support multilateral negotiations towards the reform of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement mechanism for inter-State trade disputes on the one hand, and the establishment of a Multilateral Investment Court under the auspices of the United Nations for enterprise versus State disputes on the other hand”.

“Old generation” treaties should also be revised to include provisions on sustainable development, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and protecting rights, the parliamentarians said. In particular, the Energy Charter Treaty should be revised with a view to reducing or suppressing the sunset clause in relation to investment in fossil fuels, and taking into account the environmental benefits of doing so.