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Part Ill: policies and politics the voice of parliamentarians and social partners.

Reconciling Economic, Social and Environmental Objectives

Flexibility and pragmatism--these traditional EFTA values are also shared by the EFTA Parliamentary Committee, an advisory body in which Members of Parliament from Iceland, Liechtenstein. Norway and Switzerland convene at least twice a year. In the past, discussions in this forum tended to focus on intra-EFTA issues and European affairs. Over recent years, however, the management of EFTA's worldwide network of free trade agreements has begun to feature more prominently on the agenda.

The Parliamentary Committee is informed regularly about ongoing and planned free trade negotiations. Besides seeking general information about the political and economic situation of EFTA's partner countries, the Parliamentary Committee also attaches importance to issues relating to sustainable development. Of particular relevance to parliamentarians is the coherent application of economic policies with social and environmental objectives.

In recent EFTA free trade agreements, the principle of sustainability has been reflected in the preamble as well as in a dedicated chapter on trade and sustainable development. The preamble emphasises and reaffirms the parties' commitment to democracy, the rule of law and human rights, as set out in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as respect for the fundamental rights and principles at work, pursuant to the relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO). In line with WTO rules, EFTA free trade agreements also explicitly provide for the possibility to take the measures necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, or relating to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources.

'I'he Parliamentary Committee is conscious of the importance of international competitiveness and supports EFTA in its free trade negotiations. Once a year, a delegation of the Parliamentary Committee pays a visit to a prospective VIA partner country. As the tasks of national parliaments continue to evolve. in both a European and global context, conducting activities of this type is of growing importance. Signed EFTA free trade agreements are subject to approval by national legislatures. In that perspective, it is essential that contacts at parliamentary level are established and FTA-related questions are discussed in an open and transparent manner. In recent years, visits by the EFTA Parliamentary Committee have taken place to Albania, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Panama, Russia, Serbia and Vietnam.

As progress under the WTO's Doha Development Agenda has stalled, the number of FTAs concluded between individual states has risen. Against this background. EFIA--with its wealth of knowledge, flexibility, pragmatism and highly experienced staff--can only increase in importance.

"Of particular relevance to parliamentarians is the coherent application of economic policies with social and environmental objectives."

Kathy Riklin Member of the Swiss Parliament (National (ouncillor) Chairperson of the EFTA Parliamentary Committee

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Author:Riklin, Kathy
Publication:EFTA Bulletin (Switzerland)
Article Type:Discussion
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Dec 1, 2013
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