Towards a renewed trade policy for a stronger Europe

Defending free, rules-based international trade and fighting protectionism should remain key priorities of EU trade policy. As part of Europe’s recovery strategy, a strong focus should be put on resolving ongoing trade disputes, securing the swift ratification of negotiated deals and strictly enforcing existing agreements.  

In 2020, we have submitted our comments and expectations on the renewed EU trade policy as part of the public consultation organized by the European Commission. Our message to Vice President Dombrovskis and his colleagues is very clear: the EU should remain a champion of open, rules-based international trade, it must resist protectionist tendencies and robustly address market access barriers, which are likely to increase in the current economic downturn.

With exports having grown by 119% in value over the past ten years, Europe’s spirits sector has been one of the main beneficiaries of EU trade policy. This impressive trend has come under severe pressure in recent months, as US tariffs imposed on certain European spirits since October 2019 and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 have started to bite, resulting in a 27% decrease in spirits exports compared to the same period last year. Trade policy must therefore feature as a key pillar of Europe’s recovery strategy.

Keeping a strong focus on negotiating new Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) will help to improve market access in third countries. Whilst not losing sight of traditional export markets such as the USA, the bilateral agenda should seize opportunities in markets where considerable potential remains untapped. Already negotiated trade agreements, such as the EU-Mercosur FTA, should be ratified without delay. In so doing, we believe it is our common task to explain the tangible benefits of free trade and free trade agreements. In the case of spirits, there is a proven, beneficial link between the export of spirits with Geographic Indications (GIs) and the creation of local jobs and growth.

We are calling for a close collaboration between the business community and the EU’s new Chief Enforcement Officer (CTEO) who should have sufficient resources to address regulatory barriers and tax discrimination effectively and to oversee the proper implementation of concluded agreements. EU trade partners must live up to their commitments. While the EU spends considerable time and effort in negotiating trade agreements, mechanisms to secure their effective application are equally important. We welcome the appointment of the new Chief Trade Enforcement Officer – a role that will be particularly important as we face an increased number of markets access barriers in the wake of the COVID crisis.

At the multilateral level, the EU should make sure that the essential role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is preserved and its efficiency increased. We count on the WTO Director General to deliver tangible progress on important new challenges, such as e-commerce, barriers to services and investment as well as illicit trade.

  • 25 European trade associations in a joint call for EU trade agrements (March 2022):  In the face of significant geopolitical uncertainty, diversified trade relationships are essential to the EU’s resilience & competitiveness. A proactive & ambitious FTA agenda, complementing multilateral efforts, is key & should remain an EU priority
  • spiritsEUROPE full submission to the EU Consultation on renewed trade policy for a stronger Europe (2020).
“Trade is the backbone of jobs and growth strategy in the EU. FTAs and GIs promote and protect traditional European spirits production. To reap the benefit to the European economy enforcement of these agreements is vital. ”
David Martin, MEP
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