Commission’s proposal on forced labour ban: a welcome first step that needs to be improved

Author: Jennifer Emilie Richard

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One year ago, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen declared - in her speech on the State of the European Union - that "Human rights are not for sale – at any price". Today, the Commission has presented the long-awaited proposal on the banning of forced labour products in the European Union.

Like all EU citizens, we have been and still are shocked by the unspeakable treatment of Uyghurs in China. Worldwide, 28 million people are in forced labour, according to ILO estimates. As political leaders, as customers, as citizens, we cannot let such situations flourish.

This is why Renew Europe called for a strong and ambitious text, set in a solid framework with, in particular, the corporate sustainability due diligence rules, in order to prohibit the entry of forced labour products on the EU market. It has to be said that the Commission has not followed all of our proposals made in a resolution adopted last June. Several questions remain about what the text will mean in practice, including the important responsibility given to the EU Member States to implement the text. However, this new EU trade instrument remains a welcome first step.

The legislative battle is now about to begin and Renew Europe will live up to the challenges to ensure an effective ban on forced labour products in the EU.

Samira Rafaela (Netherlands, D66), Renew Europe coordinator in the committee on International trade and our negotiator for the resolution calling for a new trade instrument to ban products made by forced labour in the EU, reacted: “The Commission delivered an ambitious instrument in which many elements the European Parliament called for are incorporated. I especially welcome that fact that this instrument is WTO-compatible, a big demand from Renew Europe. Now, we need to dive into the details and strengthen the instrument where necessary. Renew Europe is ready to make this a workable and strong instrument. With this instrument, the EU can ensure that we can act to prevent products made with forced labour entering our market. Our values-based trade agenda is not for sale at any price.