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EU pledges more trade deals, calls on Europe to reject protectionism

EU pledges more trade deals, calls on Europe to reject protectionism

The EU pledged Wednesday to pursue more individual trade deals to expand its links around the world and called on Europe to reject protectionism at home if it is to successfully sell its products abroad.
It insisted it was still committed to striking a global deal through the World Trade Organization and that bilateral agreements were an added extra that could strengthen rules and deal with issues such as investment, public procurement and intellectual property rights.
"We are talking about a wide progressive process of boosting world trade, of keeping markets opening and putting in place strong bulwarks ... against protectionism," EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said.
The risk of nations becoming more protectionist has increased since the Doha round of global trade talks fell apart over disputes on farm tariffs and subsidies, he said.
Mandelson 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.
European and U.S. business groups welcomed the EU's initiative. Europe's major business lobby, UNICE, said it would complement moves to create growth and jobs in Europe. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the plan would attack trade barriers, particularly in Asia, that affected American businesses as well.
The EU is preparing bilateral trade deals with India and South Korea, as well as and laying the groundwork for agreements with other nations in South America and the Middle East. The goal is to keep trade links open even if a WTO deal proves impossible in the short term.
"Free trade agreements can build on WTO rules by tackling issues that are not ready for multilateral discussion and by preparing the ground for the next level" of global trade deals, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said last month that these deals would be more ambitious than the agreement the EU was trying to reach in the Doha round. They would call for other nations to open up government contracts to foreign companies and push open other sectors such as banking and telecommunications.
Mandelson said EU trade partners such as India were keen to open markets to help expand their economies and pull people out of poverty.
But if Europe is 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.
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 undercut them, while retailers and companies that outsource production protested that any extra tariffs would hurt them too.
A compromise saw EU nations agree to impose antidumping tariffs for just two years, less than the five-year limit originally put forward.


Updated : 2021-05-16 16:18 GMT+08:00