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EU pushes for bilateral trade deals, calls on Europe to reject protectionism

EU pushes for bilateral trade deals, calls on Europe to reject protectionism

The EU said Wednesday it would pursue bilateral trade deals to open up trade as it called on Europe to reject protectionism at home if it is to sell abroad.
It insisted it was still committed to striking a World Trade Organization deal and that individual free trade agreements would build on that by strengthening trade rules and tackling other issues such as investment, public procurement and intellectual property rights.
"Free trade agreements can built on WTO rules by tackling issues that are not ready for multilateral discussion and by preparing the ground for the next level of multilateral liberalization in the future," EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said.
"We are talking about a wide progressive process of boosting world trade, of keeping markets opening and putting in place strong bulwarks ... against protectionism which, in my view, we would be at risk of seeing growing as the Doha talks encounter difficulties," he said
He said trade partners such as India were also keen to open markets to help expand their economies and pull people out of poverty.
But if Europe was to lead this process, its work needs to begin at home, he said: "Europe's policy needs to be clear: rejection of protectionism at home; activism in opening markets abroad."
"There is no future for Europe that is looking inwards or is trying to cut itself or shelter from the rest of the global economy," he said.
Keeping Europe "ahead of the curve" means protecting European business interests abroad and making sure its exporters do not face unfair regulatory or antitrust barriers. Europe would open its markets to trading partners and demand the same from them "under gentle pressure", he said.
He set out a range of initiatives for the coming months, including a review of the EU's trade links with China, a re-examination of trade protection measures against illegal dumping, a push for trade partners to crack down on counterfeiting and asking EU companies to identify barriers they face to trade.
The aim is to keep Europe competitive as it calls for more investment in research and development to make products the rest of the world wants and demanding patent protection to guard the fruits of that work.
The EU said it must update its trade policy to take account of how globalization has altered trading relationships such as the growing trend for companies to build factories abroad to make goods more cheaply than they could at home and import those goods _ and the profits _ back to Europe.
This complicates trade disputes such as the bitter row over Chinese and Vietnamese shoe imports, which was finally resolved Wednesday.
European shoemakers wanted the European Commission to take action against below-cost imports that unfairly undercut them; at the same time, retailers and companies that outsource production protested that any extra charges targeting foreign producers will hurt them too.
A compromise deal saw EU nations agree to impose antidumping tariffs for just two years, less than the five-year limit originally put forward.
The EU also wants to keep trade links open even if a WTO deal proves impossible in the short term. It is preparing bilateral trade deals with India and South Korea and laying the groundwork for agreements with other nations in South America and the Middle East.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said earlier this month that these deals would be more ambitious than the agreement the EU was trying to reach in the Doha round of trade talks, which fell apart over disputes on farm tariffs and subsidies.
These deals would call for other nations to open up government contracts to foreign companies and push open other sectors such as banking and telecoms.
However, the EU's major business lobby UNICE said the trend toward bilateral deals risks weakening the bloc's negotiating position at the WTO and could see EU demands for labor and social rights swept aside.


Updated : 2021-10-18 04:16 GMT+08:00