With its strategy paper entitled ‘Trade for all’ in 2015, the Commission launched an EU trade policy that focussed on values such as human rights, workers’ rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. The idea was that free trade should be fair for both consumers in Europe and for citizens elsewhere. This approach was pursued in bilateral trade negotiations and in legislative proposals on, for example, conflict minerals, dual-use goods or the investment court system. But by the end of 2016 the tenor of the debate on international trade had changed, shifting the focus to national interests and fairness for consumers and producers at home. The UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU and the election of President Trump in the US, together with the expiry of the clause recognising China’s non-market economy status, contributed to this shift.
The EU, US and Canada share the values of democracy, human rights, and economic and political freedom, and overlapping foreign policy and security concerns. The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Strategic Partnership Agreement were signed on 30 October 2016 and received the European Parliament’s consent on 15 February 2017. Negotiations on an EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, launched on 8 July 2013, have been halted since US President Donald Trump was elected.
A summary of the Committee’s consideration of amendments is now available.
Trade is the EU’s most important link to the world beyond its borders. In force since the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the transition to a common EU trade policy was completed in 1968. It is the EU’s oldest instrument influencing the bloc’s foreign relations. Today, Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) establishes the common trade policy as an exclusive EU competence. Following the procedure under that legal basis the EU negotiates, concludes and implements trade agreements. Currently, the EU is negotiating and up-dating Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with 19 countries and 2 sub-regional blocs, namely the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Southern Common Market of South American countries (Mercado Común de Sur: Mercosur). Within the EU’s latest trade strategy – the 2015 ‘Trade for All – Towards a more responsible trade and investment strategy’, FTAs are considered instruments that contribute to the EU’s objective of generating jobs and growth. About 31 million jobs in Europe depend, directly or indirectly, on the EU and its Member States’ ability to trade. In other words, EU external trade concerns almost one in every seven jobs in Europe. In France, for example, over 2.2 million jobs rely on French exports outside the EU. Around 90 % of future global growth is expected to be generated outside Europe’s borders. Figures show that the EU share of world GDP has slowly decreased in recent years (see graph below). Against this background, the EU needs to seize trade opportunities beyond its borders in order to gain higher levels of growth in Europe.