OPP Meeting Summary: EP INTA Committee – Presentation of the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency in the area of International Trade Policy (22 January 2018)

A summary of the exchange of views with Emil Karanikolov, Bulgarian Minister of Economy, representing the President-in-Office of the Council, is available.

EP INTA Committee Meeting – 22 January 2018
Presentation by Emil Karanikolov, Minister of Economy, representing the President-in-Office of the Council, on the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency in the area of International Trade Policy


INTA Committee Chair Bernd Lange (S&D, DE) introduced the debate with the following remarks:

  • the dual-use item regulation was a priority and he hoped for negotiations with the Bulgarian Presidency to start as soon as possible:
  • controls and checks on information and communications technologies was another priority;
  • he reminded colleagues that the modernisation of Trade Defence Instruments (TDI) regulation needed to be formally adopted;
  • Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) Screening was another priority the Committee would be discussing in the near future;
  • he expressed his hope that the Council would soon have a mandate for negotiations with Australia and New Zealand so that progress could be made;
  • he was also certain that agreements with Singapore, Japan and Vietnam would be discussed further under the Bulgarian Presidency so that progress could be made there;
  • macro-financial support for Georgia was less of a priority but still needed to be addressed;
  • though more of an internal issue, interinstitutional relations also needed to be discussed in order to meet obligations set out in the Lisbon Treaty, with regards to equal access to information for the Council and European Parliament (EP) on external trade agreements and to ensure there was no provisional application of Treaties before seeking Parliamentary consent.

Emil Karanikolov, Minister of Economy presented the Bulgarian Presidency priorities:

  • the first priority was the WTO. The minimal results of the 11th Ministerial WTO Conference had necessitated an in-depth discussion in the Council concerning the prospects of multilateral trade systems. Solutions were required to the current impasse and they would have to continue dialogue on ways of consolidating the WTO, including its negotiation, monitoring and advisory functions, as well as the effective functioning of dispute settlement mechanisms;
  • the second priority was to preserve the EU’s leading role in both bilateral and multilateral agreements in investment and trade. The Presidency would work to continue negotiations in the area of trade in commodities and services, as well as address options for starting negotiations in e-trade, e-commerce, data transfer and digital services. The reform of an international system for investment dispute resolution was another aspect of this priority;
  • the third priority would be negotiations for signing free trade agreements (FTAs) with priority third countries and regions. Considerable progress had been made on this at the end of 2017. In this regard, key factors were as follows:
    • scrutiny and revision of the texts following the end of negotiations with Japan;
    • continued negotiations on investments;
    • political conclusions of negotiations with Mercosur countries whilst preserving an ambitious balance and a mutually beneficial deal;
    • achieving progress in bilateral negotiations with ASEAN countries;
    • decision-making on the signing and FTA agreements with Singapore and Vietnam;
    • negotiations with Australia and New Zealand;
    • intensifying negotiations on the modernising of the trade part of the association agreement with Chile;
    • continuing with efforts on the political finalisation of negotiations and launching procedures within the Council on modernising the trade agreement with Mexico;
    • making progress on current negotiations with third countries, for example those in North Africa and the Middle East;
    • negotiations on agreements with Ukraine and Moldova;
  • the fourth priority involved FDI screening and international public procurement. Special attention would be given to the new draft regulation on screening of FDIs. The Presidency’s aim was to obtain considerable progress and hopefully finalise the procedure in the Council and formulate a negotiating position. On international public procurement instruments, if possible they hoped to renew the discussion of the file at technical level;
  • the Presidency acknowledged the constructive position and flexibility shown by the INTA Committee negotiating team during the trilogues on trade protection which had been finalised under the Estonian Presidency;
  • on the export of dual-use items, and in connection with a review of the control of dual-use goods, the Presidency would work towards achieving an agreement on the draft regulation;
  • the Presidency would work actively on all remaining topics on the EU’s agenda in the area of trade.

Iuliu Winkler (EPP, RO) 

  • on behalf of the EPP, he questioned if was there a relevant discussion taking place in the Council at the moment on the future of the WTO, including the dispute settlement system and other factors;
  • he called on the presidency to push the FDI regulation in the Council and asked what was the Council position on this file;
  • on dual-use items, and as emphasised by Bernd Lange (S&D, DE), he called for a Council position and for a short trilogue procedure;
  • on negotiations with New Zealand and Australia, a swift procedure in the Council for the mandate of negotiations was important.

Inmaculada Rodríguez-Piñero Fernández (S&D, ES) firstly spoke on behalf of Alessia Maria Mosca (S&D, IT)

  • she was critical of the minimal space reserved for trade in the Presidency’s programme, of only 3 paragraphs. There were many dossiers to be addressed in the coming months;
  • nevertheless, she was pleased to see the Presidency’s strong support for the establishment of an FDI mechanism and an international public procurement instrument. Along with the anti-dumping regulation, these files were a priority for her group;
  • on the modernisation of TDI, they had had to wait a long time for the Council to strike a compromise and this reluctance had damaged the credibility of EU institutions. Did the Presidency expect the FDI discussions to be as lengthy, she questioned;
  • the public procurement international instrument seemed to be dead. She questioned how the Presidency would support a new Directive.

Inmaculada Rodríguez-Piñero Fernández (S&D, ES)

  • on the principles governing the Presidency’s work she had not heard the word transparency. It was vital that all mandates be made public, in addition to yesterday’s development with regards to Chile;
  • on the scope of the sustainable development chapter, she asked what input the Presidency would provide on this;
  • finally, she questioned how the Presidency would ensure there was a gender chapter in all trade agreements negotiated between the EU and third countries.

Jan Zahradil (ECR, CZ)

  • he thanked the Presidency for referencing FTAs with Singapore and Vietnam and asked for the Presidency’s views on how the Council could contribute in terms of the successful ratification of both Treaties and pushing the agenda forward and sending signals to the EP and Commission that it was important to ratify as soon as possible.

Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, DE)

  • sustainability in trade agreements was also a question of credibility. He asked about the Presidency’s plans in terms of a critical assessment of the WTO Ministerial Conference. How would the different elements be pulled together for the EU and Germany in terms of digital competition, he added. This was a challenge and he asked for further information with regards to how the Presidency would deal with this issue in an international context;
  • on the subject of sustainable development, he asked for details on how sustainability would be implemented, assessed and measured;
  • Brexit had not been mentioned in the opening presentation. In this regards, he asked what the main focal points and deadlines would be that the EP and Council would have to discuss and set together.

Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA, FI) 

  • trade policy made up a small part of the Presidency’s programme;
  • she referred to the Panama and Paradise Papers. At the moment the Commission were in negotiations with Mexico and she asked if the Presidency intended to take into account the work of DG Trade on anti-corruption chapters in trade agreements. Should there be inclusion of this chapter in all trade agreements which the EU was negotiating, including the one with Mexico, she added, and should the provisions in such chapters go beyond existing recommendations, which were currently enforced by the financial action task force, and be enforceable.

Laima Liucija Andrikienė (EPP, LT)

  • she agreed that FDI, dual-use items, WTO reform, FTAs with Mexico and Mercosur and implementation of agreements with Moldova and Georgia were key priorities;
  • she highlighted the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which had been high on the agenda of the Estonian Presidency. She called for AMR to be included in the international trade agenda as FTAs included agricultural chapters. The AGRI Committee was considering calling on the Commission to enforce a ban on the import of food products from animals raised with antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) when negotiating FTAs.

Anne-Marie Mineur (GUE/NGL, NL)

  • transparency was an important issue and the Commission needed to take steps forward in that direction as well. Would the Presidency ensure all negotiating mandates and trade and association agreements would be made public she questioned;
  • on the investor-state dispute settlement, she asked what lesson Bulgaria had learned from the consultation of 2015 (97% of reactions had been negative). Was it forward-looking to press ahead with a system which gave multinationals the right to launch legal proceedings against democratic countries, she questioned;
  • on dual-use items, it was important to get a new Directive that better supported human rights as soon as possible, as well as ensuring greater transparency.

Sajjad Karim (ECR, UK)

  • on Brexit, in the UK some of his colleagues were creating an impression for the British people that a special deal was possible. He questioned how would a special agreement be delivered with the achievement of compromises on obligations. So far, EU negotiators were implying this was not possible and he asked the Presidency’s view on how he expected the negotiations to play out;
  • on the EU-India FTA, he had been a Rapporteur some years ago. He asked how the current PM would be able to veer around monopoly interests in the country.

Emil Karanikolov, Minister of Economy replied to the questions and comments:

  • the Council would continue to support the multilateral trade system and central role that the WTO played. They were convinced of the shared position between the Council and EP. Certain issues could be examined within the WTO framework and they should keep up the dynamism that had emerged on issues such as e-commerce, as well as continue dialogue and seek a solution to the current deadlock. The Council believed that the EU should continue to explore new ways of consolidating the WTO, including its functions as mentioned in the opening speech. The Presidency would launch an in-depth discussion in the Council on subsequent actions in connection with the 11th WTO meeting, including prospects for the multilateral trade system;
  • on the FDI regulation, the Presidency would try to achieve a broad consensus within the Council. On the process, they would also take into account the schedule of the EP’s adoption of its position with a view to drawing up their own timetable and schedule in the Council. On the content, the aim was to achieve a balanced position that was in full compliance with international commitments and would not create an excessive administrative burden, whilst guaranteeing identical conditions between economic operators in the EU and third countries;
  • in order to endorse the position of the Commission on the export of dual-use goods, it was necessary to underscore the importance of the scrutiny of the control regime on strategic exports whilst securing a high level of security without reducing competitiveness and the legitimate trade of dual-use goods. The proposal included elements that needed to be examined carefully. They would continue along the same lines as the Estonian Presidency;
  • the Council was about to examine the proposals launched by the Commission on starting negotiations with Australia and New Zealand based on the resolution of last autumn. They would have to complete the work on the guidelines on conducting negotiations with the aim of achieving an agreement on the two dossiers hopefully during the next few weeks;
  • the Presidency would try to achieve progress in terms of a securing a balanced position on public procurement. The Council was conducting a preliminary examination of the options resulting from the amendments to the proposal. It was too early to predict results;
  • on TDI, he welcomed the agreement achieved at the 5th December trilogue and commended the two amendments to trade protection instruments. The Presidency would try to complete the adoption of new legislation in a timely manner;
  • on trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam, the FTAs were expected to be finalised in 2018. This would send a strong signal about the EU’s commitment vis-a-vis its partners. They would request an endorsement of both FTAs by the EP;
  • the Multilateral Investment Court was being examined at the moment. They would continue work on this during the Presidency and continue the progress of the Estonian Presidency so negotiations could begin as soon as possible;
  • finally, he quoted the Bulgarian PM that Brexit was like an expensive divorce and children were suffering. They would need to find a solution that was balanced for all parties concerned.

Source: One Policy Place

The simultaneous interpretation of debates provided by the EU institutions serves only to facilitate communication amongst the participants in the meeting. It does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. One Policy Place uses these translations so this text is only a guide and should not be relied on as an official account of the meeting. Only the original speech or the revised written translation of that speech is authentic.

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