Amjad: On trade deals, real reform must come first

Reforms to uphold human rights should be a pre-requisite before trade deals are negotiated with Asia-Pacific countries, a high-powered gathering of diplomats was told in Brussels today.

Amjad Bashir MEP said economic liberalisation should also be in place in countries looking to strike agreements.

The Conservative MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber warned that the European Union’s “carrot and stick” approach could not be relied upon to halt human rights abuses.

A member of the European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, Mr Bashir was addressing a conference of EU ambassadors to various countries around the world.

He said liberal reform had to come in advance of any trade deal rather than being promised conditionally.

Citing India and Myanmar as countries where trade negotiations had failed to prompt significant movement on human-rights issues, he said: “It is futile to expect that developing countries anywhere in the world will promote the reforms necessary, such as an independent and effective judiciary, a modern public education system or advanced waste management, only in exchange of market access to the EU and the West.

“We, in Europe should be the ones reminding our international interlocutors that bold reforms MUST ideally be unilateral. They should precede Free Trade Agreements and other forms of partnership rather then being contingent upon them.”

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