On 12 October 2020, the European Parliament's Committee on International Trade for the fifth time invited guests to the Trade Policy Day. Within the scope of this event, MEPs, scientists and stakeholders discussed what a new EU trade policy should look like after the Coronavirus crisis.
In his opening address, the Chair of the Trade Committee, Bernd Lange (S&D), voiced his regret that due to the Coronavirus crisis, the current Trade Policy Day had been reduced to a two-hour meeting. At the same time, he emphasised the importance of rule-based trade, resilient supply chains and the ecological structure of trade policy.
Commission reviews future orientation
Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis stated that the economic recovery following the Coronavirus crisis had to make an important contribution to the transition to a greener society. He once again addressed the principle of an open strategic autonomy and referred to the current EU trade policy review as well as the ongoing consultation (until 15 November 2020) on this issue, in which the Chamber of Labour has already participated. On the basis of the latter, the Commission intendents to present a Communication on the future course of the EU trade policy in early 2021. Apart from that, Dombrovskis referred to the Commission’s new Access2Market Portal, which should make it easier for SMEs to access new markets in future, as well as to the appointment of the Chief Trade Enforcement Officer (CTEO).
Resilient and sustainable
In order to achieve enhanced resilience, the economist Gabriel Felbermayr, President of the Kiel Institute for World Economy, called for more diversification – hence an expansion and modification – of supply chains. However, he also pointed out that the EU’s economy was already very diversified and only strongly depended on individual third-party countries in respect of very few products. Joseph Shapiro of Berkeley University spoke about the ecological dimension of trade policy and the opportunities and challenges of a CO2 Border Carbon Adjustment Mechanism. Shapiro referred to the fact that “clean” products in the EU were much more affected by tariffs and other trade barriers than “dirty” products, whose production was especially energy-intensive.
Apart from representatives of Eurochambres, amfori and ClientEarth, Sabine Weyand, Director General for GD Trade of the European Commission, also joined the discussion. She urged stakeholders all over Europe to participate constructively in the consultation on the Trade Policy Review. According to Weyand, the general idea regarding trade policy was always about shaping globalisation. The EU therefor should take care that its actions were not too defensive. In her opinion, trade agreements, such as the EU-Mercosur Agreement with allegedly strong sustainability chapters would provide the best leverage to drive forward a sustainable development.
Criticism on trade agreements der EU
However, numerous member of the trade committee are critical exactly of these trade agreements. Joachim Schuster (S&D), for example, urged the Commission to check what the agreements, concluded by the EU, would achieve in the first place and how it could be ensured that the agreements would not run contrary to the political goals of the EU – in particular in respect of sustainability. Helmut Scholz (GUE) even went a step further and said that the claim, trade agreements would bring advantages for the EU, could no longer be sustained.
Apart from MEPs, NGOs and increasingly more Member States, the Chamber of Labour is also criticising the planned EU-Mercosur Agreement and demands the immediate halt of the negotiations.