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Free trade agreements

When negotiating free trade agreements between the EU and third countries, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs works to ensure socially sustainable economic cooperation.

In the EU, trade within the European Single Market is regulated so that barriers are practically eliminated between member states, i.e., for example, no customs duties are levied and employees can work in all member states without any problems. This also ensures fair conditions for employees. The EU's free trade agreements largely eliminate trade restrictions such as tariffs and varying product approval rules, also in relation to the rest of the world. This ensures socially sustainable economic development. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs advocates free trade agreements that bolster growth and employment and preserve European protection standards, for example in the field of occupational health and safety and social security, and promote international labour standards.

When negotiating matters of sustainability,there is now a central focus on respecting important conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), a special organisation of the United Nations. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs promotes their effective implementation.

The European Commission negotiates trade agreements with trading partners within a mandate set by the group of ministers responsible for foreign trade: Making trade policy (europa.eu). The member states together formulate the goals and limits of a possible agreement. Within the Federal Government, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is responsible for representing the German position vis-à-vis the Commission and for watching over the negotiations. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is involved in all issues concerning the protection of workers' rights and social standards. This concerns, for example, occupational health and safety measures and the protection of social services, but also the integration of international rules on worker protection. Once the negotiations have been concluded, the agreement is signed and ratified by the contracting parties in accordance with international law, i.e. incorporated into EU law. If parts of the agreement also affect the competences of member states and are not exclusively related to EU trade policy, the parliaments of the member states also have a say.