Multilateralism has been at the core of global trade governance since the end of World War II. The multilateral trading system, first under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and subsequently in the World Trade Organization (WTO), has managed to increasingly integrate countries’ economies over time and tempered unilateral approaches to international trade. The WTO also has an effective Dispute Settlement System and has recently shown that it can deliver multilateral results, namely the 2013 Trade Facilitation Agreement and the 2015 Nairobi Package. The WTO, however, has failed to conclude the 2001 Doha Development Round of trade negotiations and has been unable to address new trade issues that have arisen since its creation in 1995. This has led many countries to pursue bilateral, regional and plurilateral trade agreements outside the multilateral framework. The worldwide rise of protectionism also threatens the WTO’s objective of free trade. This is exemplified by the election as United States President of Donald Trump, who has called the WTO ‘a disaster’ and whose policies could severely undermine WTO legitimacy. The EU nevertheless continues to strongly support the multilateral trading system, as it benefits from the WTO’s rules-based system that supports free trade. At the same time, the EU views bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements as complementary approaches to the WTO and is thus actively pursuing agreements along both avenues. Finally, the EU is also actively involved in settling disputes before the WTO, including with the USA. The European Parliament has expressed its support for this approach.
Reacting to the conclusion of the EU-Japan trade deal today, the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament welcomed the agreement and announced that they will scrutinise the final text in order to check if it meets the expectations of EU citizens and if it expresses a progressive view of the EU’s trade agenda. The S&D Group recalled that besides refusing an old-fashioned private Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, they also insisted on a strong and ambitious sustainable development chapter with a review clause on the enforcement mechanisms.
The Employers believe that the business community has a crucial role to play in spreading a positive message about trade and in explaining what an ambitious trade policy can do and achieve. It is business that can tell the story of the practical benefits stemming from trade agreements. This was the main message the members of the Employers’ Group delivered to Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Trade, during the meeting on 6 December 2017.
A summary of the committee’s debate is now available.
A summary of the debate with a focus on the Commission and representatives of the political groups is now available.
Following negotiations on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2017 Economic Leaders’ Week held in Vietnam on 6–11 November, the trade ministers of the remaining 11 signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (one fewer, after the USA withdrew) agreed on the core elements of its revised version – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The revised agreement is expected to be signed by spring 2018 and to come into effect by 2019.
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.
Agenda items concern energy, digital and trade policy.
A summary of the reports back to the Committee is now available.