Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
Let me first say that I am very grateful to have this opportunity to engage with so many of you. I wish it could be in person, but for now we will have to do our best with this virtual meeting. I really value these Dialogues. I have made strong and regular outreach to civil society a priority during my time at the Commission, and will certainly continue to do so in my capacity as Trade Commissioner.
Indeed, this is a very opportune moment to discuss European trade policy. We are in the middle of reviewing our policy, and we have made a big effort to make this process transparent, open and inclusive. Our aim is to produce a new roadmap for European trade in early 2021.
We are just two days away from the end of the public consultation of the review. We have received hundreds of strong contributions, and many of them from civil society organisations. So I encourage those of you who have not made your submissions to do so without delay!
Our goal is to produce a roadmap that is fully up-to-date and truly fit-for-purpose. Trade impacts the life of every European citizen. So we need a policy roadmap that takes into account the world we live in and the challenges we face.
Let me list some of the areas where our trade policy needs to adapt, or to catch up. Indeed, I would add that many of these areas are reflected in the contributions we have already received from key stakeholders, including civil society.
We know that trade will be a vital driver of our economic recovery from the coronavirus recession.
Over the next decade, 85% of global growth will happen outside the EU. So, to take full advantage of this we need more trade, not less. And we need strong relationships with our global partners based on trust and fairness.
We want to keep creating opportunities for EU companies, especially for SMEs.
We have already taken major steps. For the first time, we now have a Chief Trade Enforcement Officer, who will help our SMEs gain greater value from our network of free trade deals.
We have recently launched Access2Markets, an online SME portal available in all EU languages. This is a very useful one-stop-shop to help SMEs to navigate the world of global trade and get the most benefit.
As we recover economically, we also need to learn the lessons from the Coronavirus pandemic.
We must be better prepared for such a crisis in the future. This could mean reducing certain supply chain dependences and readjusting or diversifying others. The point is that we need to be sure that our supply chains are both open and resilient.
Europe is the strongest global champion of free, fair and rules-based trade.
For this reason, we will invest even more effort into reform of the World Trade Organisation. Without the stability and predictability of a fit-for-purpose multilateral rulebook, trade cannot thrive and global economic recovery will suffer. In addition, the WTO needs to support not only post-Covid recovery but also make a stronger contribution to achieving global targets like the Sustainable Development Goals.
We are hopeful that we can start building a new transatlantic consensus on WTO reform in the coming months.
Of course, Europe is seen as a frontrunner when it comes to shaping new global agendas around climate and digital policy. Civil society expects all EU policies to contribute to this effort, and trade is no exception.
We need to increase our efforts to find appropriate global solutions for e-commerce.
In terms of the green transition, we want the European Green Deal to be the engine of the global recovery effort, supporting the transition to a climate-neutral and more sustainable economy. Trade policy has an important role to play in this. But it also has its limits and cannot solve complex global challenges on its own.
So we must be smart in how we use our network of free trade agreements. Trade policy can help us to unlock doors of influence around the world.
For example, every time we put Trade and Sustainable Development chapters into our deals, we gain leverage to make a direct positive impact.
In other words, a trade deal with clear commitments provides a legal basis to work with our partners to improve labour and human rights, deliver gender equality, and support more responsible business conduct.
We have already taken strong steps to make our policy better on the defence and enforcement side. I already mentioned our new Chief Trade enforcement Officer. And we had notable recent legislative successes: we agreed to update the Enforcement Regulation and, just this Monday, export controls for Dual Use products.
We must go even further to strengthen our capacity for trade defence and enforcement. New instruments may be necessary to level the playing field, and to protect our consumers and companies. This is how trade policy will contribute to the concept of “a Europe that protects”.
In addition, next week we will launch a new complaints procedure: the Single Entry Point. This will enable stakeholders to bring complaints on both market access problems abroad as well as alleged violations of trade and sustainable commitments in our trade agreements.
With this new streamlined system of complaints, the Commission wants to significantly improve the outcomes delivered by our trade agreements.
Finally, all our trade policy objectives will only be possible if we are successful in managing and developing our key relationships.
This obviously includes the US, our main strategic partner, but also other key partners like China and the UK.
I mentioned already that I am hopeful for a fresh start in transatlantic relations including progress to solve our trade disputes and closer convergence on WTO reform and climate action.
We also continue to engage with China, notably with the ongoing negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment.
Our priority issues continue to be improved market access, developing a real level playing field and cooperating on sustainable development.
We maintain the objective to conclude negotiations by the end of this year. However, this will require China to move significantly. And as I have always said, substance should take priority over deadlines.
On trade relations with the UK, we are in the last moment to reach an agreement, and I certainly hope we will do so, because it is in our strong mutual benefit.
To conclude, let me remind you that the public consultation for our trade policy review ends on Monday and your contributions are very strongly encouraged. We have already received over 200 submissions.
This process will then lead to the adoption of a new Communication on trade and investment policy, based on the concept of “Open Strategic Autonomy”. I very much look forward to discussing its contents with you. We want out trade policy to have a positive impact on the life of every European citizen.
Thank you very much, and now – over to you!