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Free trade, yes, social sell-out, no

“Free trade, yes, social sell-out, no.”With this approach CNV vice-president and international affairs director Arend van Wijngaarden is taking part in the first meeting of the so-called ‘Breed Handelsberaad’, organised by Minister Lilianne Ploumen from Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, on this day, 25 January. She is discussing a ‘reset’ in the politics of international trade with trade unions and social organisations. This reset should lead to an increased focus on the interests of workers and on the theme of sustainability in trade agreements and a bigger role for social organisations in the politics of international trade.

The CNV welcomes the start of the Breed Handelsberaad, but says that talking alone will not solve the issue. Van Wijngaarden: “Minister Ploumen must present concrete proposals that benefit workers.We certainly do not oppose the principle of promoting free trade through trade agreements, because union members also work in companies that export abroad and they will benefit from minimal trade restrictions. That does mean that we must critically evaluate whether the interests of workers are genuinely safeguarded in this type of treaty. Free trade, yes, social sell-out, no.”

Minister Ploumen has previously stated that she will draw up proposals to make the agreements within the CETA about workers interests and rights solid and enforceable. CETA is the free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada that is currently being drawn up. At the moment, there are no solid agreements about workers but there are about import tariffs, for example. If a country does not abide by these, there are tough sanctions.

Van Wijngaarden: “This means that Minister Ploumen must present proposals that are useful to workers very soon. Then she can demonstrate she takes the ‘reset’ and the Breed Handelsberaad (Broad Trade Debate) seriously.”

Publication date 25 01 2017