EU demands human rights clause linked to economic partnership agreement with Japan


The European Union is insisting on a human rights clause linked to a proposed economic partnership agreement (EPA) with Japan, it was learned Monday.

In negotiations between the EU and Japan on a strategic partnership agreement (SPA), which are held in parallel with their EPA talks, the EU is calling for a clause that allows Brussels to suspend the EPA if Japan engages in human rights violations, informed sources said.

While the EU says the clause in the SPA also allows Japan to do the same if the EU violates human rights, Tokyo is strongly opposed to the demand, the sources said.

It is the EU’s basic strategy to call for democratization in developing or emerging countries in exchange for economic benefits. Japan is angry at the EU for trying to apply the policy for developing countries to a member of the Group of Seven major industrial nations.

In its free trade agreement talks with the United States, the EU does not call for the conclusion of a political pact like the SPA.

An EU official emphasizes that the human rights clause is unlikely to be invoked against Japan, but the EU issues a statement condemning capital punishment is cruel and inhuman every time when Japan executes a death-row inmate. The clause may exert tacit pressure on Japan from the EU, which aims for abolition of the death penalty.

The EU apparently believes that having Japan accept the human rights clause would make it easier to push for the clause in its future free trade agreement talks with China.

Japan argues that allowing the SPA to constrain the EPA poses legal questions. Since Japan has not concluded a pact like the SPA in its trade liberalization deals with other countries, Tokyo has told the EU that the clause may face opposition from the Cabinet Legislation Bureau even if it expresses acceptance in the negotiations.

  • midnightbrewer

    The death penalty is their hang up? Not the human slave trafficking or indentured servitude represented by the special three-year work program for South Asian workers?

    The US has the death penalty, too. This is nonsense.

    • Steve Jackman

      Yes, the U.S also has the death penalty like Japan, but unlike Japan it does not have a 99% conviction rate.

      • midnightbrewer

        You’re confusing your facts. There is a 99% conviction rate, but that does not equate to a 99% death penalty rate. The US has an 88% conviction rate, for example. If those kinds of high percentages are that important, then the US should be just as strictly censored. The reason they’re not is due to pragmatic economics, not America’s superior moral values.

      • Steve Jackman

        If you research this topic further, you will find that the human rights clause which the EU wants included is much broader and goes beyond just the death penalty. It covers protection of human rights and democracy in general including, but not limited to, the death penalty.

  • alain

    As a European, I must say I don’t understand this clause. Japan is a great country and a democratic one. I am sure that Japan can decided oni Its own if Its wants to abolish capital punishment. I hope Japan will reach that conclusion.
    Japanis not China. As for the USA there are also human rights violations that itis commiting every day.
    Europe must stop to give lesson of democracy to some countries and ot to others.
    I can understand that Japanese can feel humilated by this clause.

    • Steve Jackman

      Democracy does not necessarily protect the human rights of minorities. Remember, democracy is by definition the rule of the majority. The EU’s human rights concerns are not limited to capital punishment only.

      It serves no purpose to compare Japan to China, since is by no means a model of human rights. However, China is also at a different stage in its development. Japan considers itself a developed country and should be held to a higher standard.

  • Steve Jackman

    I think this is an excellent idea. Kudos to the EU. In my more than a decade living in Japan, I have witnessed a wide range of human rights abuses against non-Japanese (not limited to only capital punishment). In my opinion, Japan lags far behind other developed countries in this regard, so I really hope the EU does not back off, given the pressure Japan is surely going to put on it. This will send a very clear message to Japan that it needs to start living up to its human rights obligations, in order to be considered a truly developed country.

    • midnightbrewer

      But this only addresses the death penalty, not the impressive variety of human rights violations in Japan.

      • Steve Jackman

        As I pointed out in my response to your other comment, the EU’s human rights clause covers the protection of human rights and democracy much more broadly, and is not limited to only the death penalty. You can confirm this point easily by googling the topic yourself if you’re interested.