How trade can be leveraged as a foreign policy tool to press for human rights improvements

Trade can be used as a foreign policy tool – including as leverage on human rights issues. But there are two foundational principles of international trade law which dictate how this can and cannot be done.

The first, ‘national treatment’, requires that once a good or service has entered a country’s market, it should be treated equally to those produced locally. This means, for example, that once an item of clothing manufactured in Sri Lanka enters the Belgian market, the government generally cannot impose additional restrictions on the product which differ from those applied to clothing manufactured in Belgium; and there are restrictions on giving domestic companies advantages through, for example, subsidies (‘state aid’).

The second, known as ‘Most-Favoured-Nation (MFN)’, restricts countries from granting special access to only select other countries. It does this by requiring that if a country wants to grant special trade preferences to another country, it must do so for all. This means that the UK, for example, cannot unilaterally offer special exceptions to imports from India or the US without also offering them universally.

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In a world of crises and tragedy, we must not forget about Myanmar

By Benedict Rogers

When Myanmar (Burma)’s army reportedly killed 11 children in a helicopter attack last week, those of us who follow Myanmar heaved a sigh and shed a tear, and the rest of the world gave a shrug and averted its gaze. In a world filled with so much tragedy, the crisis in Myanmar seems to be passing so many by. For those of us watching, it was yet another bombing, yet another massacre, yet another atrocity – and dare I say it, yet another attack which has become daily news.

It’s staggering, really. Myanmar’s illegal military regime seized power in a coup just over 18 months ago, overthrowing a democratically elected government, snuffing out a decade of hoped-for liberalization, and turning the clock back by at least ten years – and yet the rest of the world shrugs its shoulders. A brutal, criminal dictatorship has locked up a Nobel Laureate – who had already spent years under house arrest and then a decade sharing power with the military in government – and the world turns its back. A junta arrests and jails a former British ambassador, Vicky Bowman, alongside an Australian academic, Sean Turnell, both of whom I know, and no one really says a word. And that regime spends months relentlessly bombing innocent civilians and the international community is silent. What is going on?

True, the world right now is full of woes. The war in Ukraine. The energy crisis. The threats to Taiwan. Protests in Iran. And many other tragedies – some in the news, others forgotten. Nigeria. Yemen. Syria. North Korea. Hong Kong. The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. These are all desperate heartaches which sometimes gain the spotlight and yet so often remain forgotten. But Myanmar is a Ukraine in slow-motion, and yet almost no one is speaking about it.

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There is no time to lose in the appointment of a new EU Special Envoy for FoRB

On 10 September Christos Stylianides was sworn in as Greece’s Minister of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection. Unfortunately, his appointment leaves vacant once again the vital role of the European Union (EU)’s Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) outside the EU.

Mr Stylianides held the position for just four months, and he was appointed over a year and a half after his predecessor’s mandate had ended. While it would be unfair to criticise Mr Stylianides himself for moving into his new role, it is essential that the EU does not leave the Special Envoy position vacant for as long as it did prior to his appointment.

Alongside the EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of FoRB, the Special Envoy mandate is a key tool in the EU’s diplomatic arsenal. Prior to Mr Stylianides’ brief tenure , it was held for several years by the Slovakian politician Dr Ján Figeľ, who was acknowledged as playing a key role in securing the release of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, who spent years on death row on unfounded charges of blasphemy.

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Un nouvel outil: Le régime global de sanctions de l’UE en matière de droits humains

Le 7 décembre, l’UE a officiellement approuvé la création de son tout nouveau mécanisme de défense des droits humains, le régime mondial de sanctions de l’Union européenne (UE) en matière de droits humains.

Il permettra au bloc européen d’imposer des interdictions de voyage à l’échelle de l’UE, de geler les avoirs et d’interdire la mise à disposition de fonds et de ressources économiques aux personnes et entités qui ont commis de graves violations des droits humains ou y ont été associées. Il visera les acteurs étatiques et non étatiques, quel que soit l’endroit où ils se trouvent dans le monde et où ils ont commis leurs crimes.

Ce mécanisme est officieusement connu sous le nom de “Magnitsky Act”, inspiré du modèle américain qui l’a précédé. Le Magnitsky Act américain a été signé par le président Barack Obama en 2012 et a avait été conçu à l’origine pour cibler les fonctionnaires russes responsables de la mort de l’avocat fiscaliste russe Sergei Magnitsky.

Le fait que ce mécanisme permette de cibler des individus spécifiques responsables de violations des droits humains pourrait avoir des implications importantes pour les individus dans de nombreux pays où travaille CSW. Par exemple, la loi américaine Magnitsky a été utilisée pour imposer des sanctions aux responsables de violations dans la région ouïghoure de Chine. Lors de la première désignation dans le cadre de son propre régime de sanctions, le Royaume-Uni a ciblé, entre autres, deux généraux militaires de haut rang du Myanmar (Birmanie) impliqués dans la violence systématique et brutale contre le peuple Rohingya et d’autres minorités ethniques, et deux organisations impliquées dans le travail forcé, la torture et le meurtre qui ont lieu dans les goulags de Corée du Nord.

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A new tool in the toolbox: The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime

On 7 December, the EU officially approved the creation of its newest human rights mechanism, the European Union (EU) Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.

It will enable the European bloc to impose EU-wide travel bans on, freeze the assets of and prohibit the availability of funds and economic resources to individuals and entities who have committed or been associated with serious human rights abuses. It will target both state and non-state actors, regardless of where they are in the world and where they committed their crimes.

The mechanism is informally known as the EU-styled Magnitsky Act, after the US model that preceded it. The US Magnitsky Act was signed by President Barack Obama in 2012 and was originally designed to target Russian officials who were responsible for the death of the Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

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