Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Trade for All: European Commission presents new trade and investment strategy


Trade for All: European Commission presents new trade and investment strategy

Trade for All: European Commission presents new trade and investment strategy
Photo credit: John Thys | AFP

The Commission is proposing a new trade and investment strategy for the European Union, entitled ‘Trade for All: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’.

The new approach builds on Europe’s excellent trade track record. EU companies export nearly as much as China to the rest of the world and more than firms in the United States or any other country.

More than 30 million jobs already depend on exports outside the EU. 90% of future global growth will happen outside Europe’s borders. A new strategy that will make trade agreements more effective and that will create more opportunities means supporting jobs in Europe.

The new strategy is also a direct response to the current intense debate on trade in the EU – including on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that is being negotiated with the United States. It is also an implementation of the Juncker Commission’s pledge to listen and respond to European public’s concerns.

“We’ve listened to the debate,” said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. “Europeans know that trade can deliver jobs, growth and investment for consumers, workers and small companies. And they want more of those results. But they don't want to compromise on core principles like human rights, sustainable development around the world or high quality regulation and public services at home. And they want to know more about the negotiations we carry out in their name.

So trade policy must become more effective, more transparent and more in tune with our values. In short, it must become more responsible. That’s what we’re doing today.”

The new strategy will make EU trade policy more responsible by basing it on three key principles: 

  • Effectiveness: Making sure trade actually delivers on its promise of new economic opportunities. That means addressing the issues that affect today's economy, which involves services and digital trade. It also means providing the means and information necessary to ensure European small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), consumers and workers can take full advantage of – and adapt to – more open markets. This means, for instance, including effective provisions for SMEs in future trade agreements.

  • Transparency: Opening up negotiations to more public scrutiny by publishing key negotiating texts from all negotiations, as has been done in the TTIP negotiations. As of today, the Commission has already published some new texts (i.e. the Economic Partnership Agreements with East and West Africa) on its website.

  • Values: Safeguarding the European social and regulatory model at home. Using trade agreements and preference programmes as levers to promote, around the world, European values like sustainable development, human rights, fair and ethical trade and the fight against corruption. This means to include anti-corruption rules in the EU's trade agreements, and to see that our trading partners implement provisions on core labour standards, like the rights of workers to organise and the abolition of child labour. It also means broadening efforts to ensure responsible management of supply chains.

A responsible EU trade strategy also requires an up-to-date programme of trade negotiations that can help shape globalisation to the benefit of European citizens, companies and beyond:

  • It prioritises concluding major ongoing projects like the Doha Round of WTO talks, TTIP, the EU-Japan free trade agreement (FTA) and the EU-China investment agreement.

  • It opens the door to new negotiations in the vital Asia-Pacific region (like Free Trade Agreements with Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia) and plans a deepening of the EU’s relationships with African partners. This includes specifically requesting a mandate from EU Member States for free trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.

  • Modernising existing Free Trade Agreements with Mexico and Chile and the Customs Union with Turkey.

A responsible EU trade strategy has also to be in touch with the big challenges of our time. That’s why, just as the European Agenda for Migration calls for the better use of synergies across policy areas in order to incentivise the cooperation of third countries on migration and refugee issues, the trade policy should take into account the policy framework for the return and readmission of irregular migrants and, where relevant, visa facilitation.


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