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Human rights

The EU's trade policy, alongside its foreign policy and development cooperation, supports respect for human rights in non-EU countries.

Trade topics
Sustainable development

The EU examines the effects of trade agreements on human rights in both the EU and among its trade partners. It does so through impact assessments before and during negotiations, and evaluations of trade agreements once they are in operation.

The EU's standard Generalised Scheme of Preferences and Everything but Arms scheme allow exporters from developing countries to pay lower customs duties.  If there are serious and systematic violations of human rights, the EU can withdraw this benefit until the situation improves sufficiently.


Under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences+, developing countries can gain additional EU market access by ratifying and putting into practice 27 international conventions, including international conventions on human and labour rights. If these conventions are not respected, the EU can temporarily withdraw the additional access.

EU Trade Agreements

Modern EU trade agreements oblige the EU and its partners to respect and implement the International Labour Organization's fundamental conventions on:

  • allowing freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining;
  • getting rid of all forms of forced or compulsory labour;
  • abolishing child labour, and;
  • ending discrimination in the workplace.

Export Controls

The EU supports efforts to abolish the death penalty and ban torture worldwide. This includes strict monitoring and control of EU exports of goods that can be used to carry out torture or death sentences.

The EU is modernising its policy on export controls of 'dual use' goods that can be used for both civilian and military applications. One of the objectives is to prevent the misuse of digital surveillance and intrusion systems that can lead to human rights violations.

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