Poland until August 16 to comply with rulings of the EU’s highest court or face fines
The new trade strategy launched by the Commission in February presents binding principles which will help the EU to achieve its internal and external policy objectives. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes this trade strategy as a means of improving market access and leveling the playing field. At the same time, the modernization of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be the key to success for future generations.
Trade has been an engine of growth and the economy. Its role has become even more important since the outbreak of the pandemic as a means of securing Europe’s recovery. Nevertheless, the EU must first analyze and quantify trade changes, distinguishing between temporary and COVID-19-related changes on the one hand, and permanent changes on the other.
“We need to take a certain approach, be open and assertive, to improve stakeholder engagement in trade policy, because the discourse on international trade is changing,” said Timo Vuori, EESC rapporteur notice on trade policy review.
The opinion, adopted at the plenary session in July, is a step forward for this strategy, which will create new opportunities to reduce the risks associated with world trade and the EU economy.
It is time for Europe to put aside naivety and adopt a more assertive profile when it unilaterally defends the EU’s trade values and commitments. When the WTO cannot fully act or deliver, the EU should be able to count on a wide range of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that reflect European principles and international standards shared with leading and emerging economies in the world. international trade.
As Christophe Quarez, co-rapporteur of the opinion, said: “All work must be placed in the context of multilateralism and WTO reform.
The EESC agrees that modernizing the WTO is a top priority given its central role in building an effective multilateral matrix for a modern trade agenda. Therefore, the EU must carry out ambitious reforms of the WTO by breaking taboos on the social and climatic aspects of trade and by addressing current and future challenges in a sustainable manner. To achieve this, Member States must engage in strategic cooperation with key trading partners on priority multilateral issues.
A trade policy that benefits people
The EESC welcomes the trade agenda which addresses some of the stakeholder concerns raised during the public consultation. However, there is a lack of reflections on how to improve the involvement of civil society. The Committee stresses the need to continue cooperation with civil society at national and European level, in order to ensure that trade policy adds value to our daily life.
Civil society must become an active partner in trade policy, from the development to monitoring of trade tools and agreements. In order to ensure the role of civil society organizations in the process, the EESC calls for the re-establishment of the Expert Group on FTAs, which has provided unrivaled and indispensable in-depth and regular engagement on specific trade issues. Significant engagement with the European Parliament, in particular via the EESC, with a view to responding more effectively to concerns, would help ensure more harmonious ratification.
In addition, National Advisory Groups (DAGs) which are essential institutional monitoring pillars of modern FTAs, should be strengthened.
The pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of the global trading system and of workers in supply chains. Building sustainability and resilience in global value chains (GVCs) is of paramount importance to level the playing field.
The EU needs instruments to fight corruption and violations of human, environmental, labor, social and human rights, such as mandatory due diligence, a new UN treaty on business and human rights and an ILO decent work convention.
Having learned the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis, the EU calls for a better understanding of the impact of global value chains on people and businesses as well as their shortcomings. Diversification is a tool for greater resilience, with appropriate monitoring mechanisms and adequate public procurement processes.
The EESC strongly supports the active role of the EU in shaping global rules for more sustainable and fairer trade that would bring prosperity and security not only to trading partners, but also to countries and their citizens.