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Netherlands

2. Current policy [page 9]

“As the government pointed out in A World to Gain,its policy document on aid and trade, International Corporate Social Responsibility (ICSR) is a prerequisite for sustainable, inclusive growth.”

3.1 An active role for the government [page 15-16]

Human rights and trade missions

“For many of the people interviewed, raising the issue of human rights during trade missions is an example of a proactive approach that can enable the government to fulfil its Duty to Protect.

For the government, it is essential to encourage ICSR during trade missions, and it has now become a permanent feature of them. The government expects companies represented in a trade mission to look into the possible adverse effects of their operations on communities, including on human rights, in the country in question, and to pursue policies to mitigate them.

Trade mission to Indonesia

“Between 20 and 22 November 2013, Prime Minister Mark Rutte led a trade mission to Indonesia. He was accompanied by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and the Minister for Agriculture. During talks with the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Rutte raised the issue of human rights. He also opened a forum on sustainable production and trade, organised in collaboration with the Sustainable Trade Initiative. The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation took part in this forum and talked with representatives of Indonesia’s government, civil society organisations and private sector on the importance of sustainable production of and trade in palm oil and pulp for the paper industry”

3.2 Policy coherence [page 16-21]

“It became apparent from the consultations that the government sometimes conveys conflicting messages about CSR and human rights – for example about the most important norms, and which ministry is responsible for which part of the policy. For civil society and implementing organisations, coherence is essential. During the consultations, specific attention was requested for international policy coherence and incorporation of the UN Guiding Principles in trade and investment agreements.”

Trade and investment agreements

“Incorporating the OECD Guidelines and UN Guiding Principles in trade and investment agreements was one of the suggestions made during the consultations.

The government is committed to including clear provisions on the relationship between trade, investment and sustainability in trade and investment agreements. Within the EU, the Netherlands urges the inclusion in these agreements of a section on trade and sustainable development, with monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. The aim is for parties to reaffirm their commitment to fulfilling their ILO obligations to eliminate child labour and forced labour and to working together to this end. Agreements also need to be made on cooperating on and promoting CSR, through the OECD Guidelines, for instance. For the Netherlands, involvement of civil society organisations is an essential component of any agreement.

The EU’s aim is for every trade agreement to be linked to a broader partnership and cooperation agreement reaffirming states’ human rights obligations. Where human rights are abused, the trade agreement could ultimately be suspended. …

The Lisbon Treaty gave the EU exclusive competence on direct foreign investment. With this shift, which does not apply to every aspect of investment, the EU now negotiates investment treaties together with the member states. Each EU investment agreement will most likely contain a separate section on environment, labour, sustainability and transparency, dealing with these issues in greater detail. The Netherlands is very much in favour of including such sections in all future EU investment protection agreements.

Existing Dutch bilateral trade agreements provide parties with the policy space to take non-discriminatory measures to protect public interests such as human rights, working conditions and the environment. The Lisbon Treaty gave the EU exclusive competence on direct foreign investment. With this shift, which does not apply to every aspect of investment, the EU now negotiates investment treaties together with the member states. Each EU investment agreement will most likely contain a separate section on environment, labour, sustainability and transparency, dealing with these issues in greater detail. The Netherlands is very much in favour of including such sections in all future EU investment protection agreements.”

Free trade agreement between the EU, Peru and Colombia

“Free trade agreement between the EU, Peru and Colombia The free trade agreement between the EU, Peru and Colombia seeks to reaffirm respect for human rights and ensure sustainable economic development. Title IX on Trade and Sustainable Development contains provisions on supervision and implementation, based on labour and environmental standards, with agreements on promoting and implementing internationally recognised ILO labour standards. The Colombian government undertakes to consult civil society organisations each year on implementation of this Title of the trade agreement. These organisations may also issue recommendations on their own initiative.”

3.3 Clarifying due diligence

Due diligence by government [page 27]

“A point raised in the consultations was that the government should also apply due diligence to its own activities, for example in providing support for companies in the form of grants or other types of finance for activities abroad, export credit insurance and trade missions. In all these cases, the government requires the companies concerned to apply due diligence. …

For some time now the government has applied ICSR frameworks for risk assessment (due diligence) to all applications for support. These frameworks differ, depending on the goals and the nature of the instrument in question. For example, the ICSR framework for trade missions differs from the frameworks for project grants or export credit insurance.”

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