On April 28th, the European Commission announced the conclusion of negotiations surrounding the EU-Mexico Global Agreement, following a phone call between commissioner Phil Hogan and the Mexican Economic Minister, Graciela Márquez Colín.1 This commercial agreement, whose negotiations had been on hold since part way through 2018, was finalized in a moment in which civil society’s attention centers on responding to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, with limited capacity for reaction and opposition. Importantly, the Global Agreement is not exclusively about trade, but also forms part of a structure determining relations between the EU and Mexico on diverse issues including climate change and human rights.
Though we have yet to see all the details of the Agreement—as these will be voted upon in the European Parliament and Council—it is important to highlight the human rights obligations of corporations and European financiers undertaking economic activities in Mexico. European civil society organizations have expressed concern regarding various aspects of the agreement, including the possibility that it facilitates the erosion of democratic decisions by transnational corporations.2 Currently, we worry about how restrictions on liberty of movement due to the pandemic are being taken advantage of to start and continue work on controversial megaprojects like the interoceanic corridor and the ‘Mayan Train’.3 Prior consultation along with adequate environmental impact studies are the right of indigenous and non-indigenous communities and important prerequisites for any macro-investment, which should not be side-stepped while civil society is less able to actively manifest its opposition.
As PBI, and in coordination with other organizations and networks that we form part of such as Red EU-LAT or Protect Defenders, we carry out an intensive process of visibilization via meetings with the European Union Foreign Service, euro-parliamentarians and the EU Delegation in Mexico in order to inform the international community of human rights violations taking place, pushing to ensure these do not remain in impunity. We believe it fundamental to ensure human rights defenders can continue their work, and as PBI we work to leverage the voices of Mexican defenders in decision-making spaces in Brussels and Geneva.