Mexico and European civil society concerns and proposals about “modernisation” of the EU-Mexico global agreement

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foto: Geraint Rowland

The EU-Mexico Free Trade Agreement (which is part of the Global Agreement) entered into force 17 years ago. The existing free trade agreement allowed the EU to get 95% of goods and services liberalisation. Yet, the EU has deemed this treaty “outdated”. The “modernised” EU-Mexico agreement aims to reach the same level of liberalisation as in the Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA). Because tariffs between Mexico and the European Union are already low, the proposed agreement would focus on deepening services liberalisation, regulatory issues, investors’ rights, government procurement and state enterprises, intellectual property rights and non-tariff trade barriers. It will include chapters on investment protection (including investor-state dispute settlement), regulatory cooperation, and intellectual property rights, among others.

The EU and Mexico announced in early April that they aim to conclude negotiations before the end of 2017.  The negotiations are happening at a very fast pace and under secrecy. This has made meaningful participation and monitoring of negotiations by civil society impossible.

Concerns ahead of the next round of negotiation

Deepening of the same failed model of the current Global Agreement

Several independent studies have evaluated that the current trade agreement did not achieve the promised results in terms of sustainable development, job creation and the protection of human rights in Mexico. It did not even achieve the promised trade diversification[1]. Furthermore, the democratic clause of the Global Agreement has not resulted in any decisions or measures that helped alleviate the continuous violations of Human Rights, including by EU foreign investors, in Mexico. The Political Dialogue has not favored a meaningful dialogue between society and government.

None of this has been taken into consideration when designing the new mandate of negotiation for the modernisation process. It is worrying that the new treaty will deepen the same model of trade liberalisation instead of promoting a new type of relations based on economic complementarity, that put the full respect for human rights and the right of governments to determine economic development models, above competition and the profit of large corporations.

Enforceable investors rights vs lack of investor’s obligations on Human rights

The stated aim to add an investment protection chapter means the agenda for modernisation of the FTA is first and foremost an extension and deepening of the protections for investors. This investment protection chapter will enable foreign investors to one-sidedly challenge governments’ public interest regulations, enforceable by an investor-state dispute settlement that bypasses the national legal systems.

There are widespread concerns that a modernised FTA between the EU and Mexico that includes investment arbitration will curtail future government’s policy space to reverse the Mexican government highly controversial and unpopular decision to open up, after decades, the exploitation of the oil and gas industry to foreign companies. Oil and gas companies are among the most active users of investor-state dispute settlement globally[2].

On the other hand, European companies have a track record of human rights and environmental violations in Mexico with virtually total impunity[3]. The proposed investment chapter developed by the European Union does nothing to address this situation. On the contrary, it will deepen the imbalance between binding rights for corporations and voluntary guidelines when it comes to the respect of human rights. The EU proposal does not include any obligations for investors, only rights.

The proposed chapters on sustainable development and political dialogues include vaguely phrased and non-binding commitments to environmental safeguards. This chapter’s weak and unenforceable provisions stand in sharp contrast to the strong and highly enforceable privileges for foreign investors that are proposed in the investment chapter. No judicial remedies are established for communities affected by the proposed treaty. Finally, the right to development is not ensured by this chapter, but on the contrary is put at risk.

Attack on public services

If Mexico’s modernisation agreement follows CETA’s ‘negative list’ approach for services commitments, citizens’ rights to access basic services like water, health, education or energy will be under threat.

Impact on small-scale farmers and food sovereignty

In the current negotiations, the EU insists that Mexico recognise the 1991 International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). This would further restrict the free circulation of seed exchange among farmers and would threaten the diversity of Mexican maize species. The victims will be the three million farmers whose traditional agriculture is a cornerstone of the country’s food security[4].


We, the undersigned civil society organisations from Mexico and Europe, call for a halt of ongoing negotiations until the European Commission and the Mexican government agree to:

  • Disclose the mandate of the trade negotiations, and publish all drafts of consolidated negotiation texts.
  • Ensure consultation and meaningful participation of Mexican and European civil society in the decision-making processes related to policies and economic agreements through institutionalized and comprehensive mechanisms that guarantee transparency and allow a broad participation of interested Civil Society actors, including a fair representation of communities and affected groups representatives.
  • Carry out a sustainability impact assessment (SIA) and comprehensive human rights impact assessment (HRIA). The terms of references and the studies should be done with participation from civil society.
  • Re-think the foundation of trade relations between EU and Mexico. The new negotiations should be founded on an approach that:
    1. make trade and investment interests subject to respecting human rights as defined in International human rights law – including international labour law and international environmental law;
    2. support, and in no way undermine, sustainable development and the realisation of economic, social, environmental, cultural, indigenous, civil and all human rights;
    3. recognises the right of states to exclude sectors from the logic of free trade and protect sectors that are considered strategic for national development;
    4. recognises and supports food sovereignty;
    5. recognises and guarantees affordable public services;
    6. respects the right of countries and subnational governments to the necessary policy space to formulate and pursue their own development strategies; and
    7. Excludes the investor- state dispute settlement (either ISDS, ICS or MIC) as an enforcement mechanism for broad-based investor protections. Human rights can not be achieved as long as foreign investors are entitled to pressure governments into watering down or abandoning public interest regulations.
    8. Includes binding and enforceable mechanisms for the human rights and democratic clause and the chapters on sustainable development and labour rights.

We also strongly recommend that the EU and Mexico lend its full support to the UN process for a Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights as a step to begin to bridge the current governance gap for transnational corporations.


Organisation / Organización Región / Region
1.     Project on Organization, Develoment, Education and Research (PODER) América Latina Latin America
2.     Food & Water Europe Europa Europe
3.     Confederation paysanne/ Via campesina Europe Europa Europe
Organisation / Organización País / Country
4.     Convergencia de Organizaciones Sociales México Mejor Sin TLCs (70 organisations from all over Mexico are part of it) México Mexico
5.     Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC) Mexico México
6.     Asociación Nacional de Industriales de Transformación (ANIT) Mexico México
7.     Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Francisco de Vitoria OP, A.C. Mexico México
8.     DECA, Equipo Pueblo, AC Mexico México
9.     Centro de Promoción y Educación Profesional “Vasco de Quiroga” Mexico México
10.  ANEC A.C. México Mexico
11.  Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika e.V. (FDCL) Alemania Germany
12.  PowerShift e.V. Alemania Germany
13.  Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung/Forum on Environment and Development Alemania Germany
14.  Attac Austria Austria Austria
15.  ÖBV-Via Campesina Austria Austria Austria
16.  Initiativplattform TTIP stoppen Oberoesterreich Austria Austria
17.  DIE LINKE Österreich Austria Austria
18.  Evangelische Hochschulgemeinde Salzburg Austria Austria
19.  CIFCA -Copenhagen Initiative for Central America and Mexico Bélgica Belgium
20.  Klimaat -en vredesactiegroep Pimpampoentje Bélgica Belgium
21.  CNCD-11.11.11 (Centre national de coopération au développement) Bélgica Belgium
22.  Corporate Europe Observatory Bélgica Belgium
23.  Comité pour les droits humains Daniel Gillard Bélgica Belgium
24.  Umanotera Eslovenia Slovenia
25.  TTIP Network Finland Finlandia Finland
26.  AITEC Francia France
27.  Amis de la Terre Francia France
28.  Green Institute Greece Grecia Greece
29.  Transnational Institutte (TNI) Holanda Netherlands
30.  Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands Holanda Netherlands
31.  Vrijschrift Holanda Netherlands
32.  Védegylet / Protect the Future Hungría Hungary
33.  Fairwatch Italia Italy
34.  Fairwarch Italia Italy
35.  Mouvement Ecologique Luxemburgo Luxembourg
36.  ZERO – Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável Portugal Portugal
37.  ASMAA Algarve Surf & Marine Activities Association Portugal Portugal
38.  Plataforma Não ao Tratado Transatlantico Portugal Portugal
39.  Global Justice Now Reino Unido UK
40.  War on Want Reino Unido UK
41.  Entrepueblos/Entrepobles/Entrepobos/Herriarte Spanish State Estado Español
42.  Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) Spanish State Estado Español
43.  Izquierda Unida Spanish State Estado español
44.  ACDESA-PV Spanish State Estado español
45.  Confederación pirata Spanish State Estado español
46.  Intersindical Valenciana Spanish State Estado español
47.  Ecologistas en Acción de Castilla y León Spanish State Estado español
48.  Unión Sindical Obrera (USO) Spanish State Estado español
49.  ALTERNATIVA REPUBLICANA Spanish State Estado español
50.  ATTAC España Spanish State Estado español
51.  ACCIO ECOLOGISTA AGRO Spanish State Estado español
52.  Ecologistas en Acción Spanish State Estado español
53.  Ecoloxistes n’Aición d’Asturies Spanish State Estado español
54.  Coordinadora de ONGD-España Spanish State Estado español


[1]Aguirre Reveles, Rodolfo y Pérez Rocha, Manuel (2007) The EU-Mexico Free Trade Agreement Seven Years On. A warning to the global South, Transnational Institute, Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio and ICCO, ; Villarreal, Jorge (2008) Balance del Acuerdo Global entre México y la Unión Europea : a 8 años de su entrada en vigor, Heinrich Böll Stiftung ; Becerra Pozos, Laura (2013) Las Relaciones México- Unión Europea en el marco del Acuerdo Global y la Asociación Estratégica : un balance desde la sociedad civil mexicana, Asociación Latinoamericana de Organizaciones de Promoción al Desarrollo (ALOP), ; FDCL (2015) El Acuerdo Global entre la Unión Europea y México, ; Orozco Contreras, Marcela(2011) La reconquista europea : Balance a 10 años del Acuerdo Global México-UE, Ecuador Decide, Universidad de Guayaquil, RMALC


[3] During the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) session on “Free Trade, violence, impunity and Peoples’ Rights In Mexico (2011-2014)” 80 transnational corporations were accused of violating human rights and causing environmental devastation (section 8.2), Also, Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (2010) The Judgment, The European Union and transnational corporations in Latin America: policies, instruments and actors complicit in violations of the peoples’ rights, Madrid, Pages 34-35 ; and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (2008) México: Denuncian que compañía de agua Agbar “viola el derecho humano al agua” en Coahuila,