ETUC statement on EU Japan FTA

As the EU Japan FTA comes before the European Parliament the ETUC calls on MEPs to raise the threats it poses to workers’ rights, public services and social welfare. 

We are concerned that the deal contains no enforceable provisions on workers’ rights. The sustainable development chapter of the agreement contains no independent enforcement court or sanctions when violations of labour rights occur which is essential to ensure commitments to labour standards are upheld as the ETUC has outlined in our progressive trade agenda.

In July ETUC and the Japanese trade union confederation RENGO jointly expressed concern that this deal does not incorporate effective labour enforcement provisions in line with repeated requests by both our organisations. We are concerned that Japan has still not ratified two of the fundamental ILO conventions: Convention 105 on Abolition of Forced Labour, and Convention 111 on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation). 

The ETUC is also concerned that workers’ rights, and democracy more broadly, are also threatened by the regulatory cooperation provisions in the EU-Japan deal. These would establish transnational bodies to decide about regulatory changes in the EU and Japan. This mean parliaments at national and European levels, as well as trade unions, would be bypassed in decision making about social regulations. This could lead to crucial regulations covering health and safety and workers’ rights being irreversibly reduced. The risk to safety and health protections are further threatened by principles in the agreement that environmental and health protections can only be implemented if supported by full scientific evidence of their necessity. This crucially undermines the ‘precautionary principle’ that has been vital to ensure the EU has a high standard of health and safety and environmental protections. 

Public services are also threatened in the deal as they are not fully excluded by a general exemption clause from the agreement and as it takes a ‘negative list’ approach to service listing. That would mean parts of the public sector (e.g. sewage disposal) not explicitly excluded from the deal could be liberalised through the backdoor. 

It is vital for the European Parliament to hear these concerns when the EU Japan FTA is considered.