Greens in the European Parliament today voted against a new free trade agreement between the EU and Japan. The deal, known as JEFTA, was passed due to support from a majority of MEPs from both the right and left. Greens also called for a postponement of the vote, which would have allowed for the EU Commission to negotiate sanctions if either party to the deal failed to comply with sustainable development objectives.
JEFTA is the biggest ever trade deal in terms of trade value and Greens have had reservations from the outset. They say the agreement follows the damaging blueprint of similar deals such as TTIP and CETA; that it leaves public services exposed to further privatisation; that financial service rules are the same that applied when the financial crash happened; that data protection is weak and that the sustainable development chapter is not binding.
Green MEP for the South West, Molly Scott Cato said:
“It is disappointing that so many MEPs have backed a free trade agreement that has so many shortcomings. In particular, the deal is a failed opportunity to bring Japan in line with higher environmental standards. The Paris climate goals and the sustainable development goals must be the overarching framework for modern trade agreements.
“As a major market for illegal timber and whaling under the guise of “scientific research” JEFTA should provide the mechanisms to prevent such practices and impose sanctions if Japan continues to breach them. But it contains no powers to hold Japan to account.
“Worryingly, this deal could be a precedent for the future relationship between the EU and UK if and when we leave the bloc. The UK will also seek to use such free trade deals as blueprints in a copy and paste job when trying to agree trade deals with countries outside the EU. Or if the Brextremists get their hands on UK trade policy, it is clear that things could be even worse with workers’ rights trashed and environmental regulations ripped up.”