spiritsNEWS March 2021

A new Trade Strategy for the EU

On 18 February, DG TRADE released its new EU Trade Strategy. The new Strategy is strongly influenced by the COVID crisis, which has drastically affected most European economic sectors, including in relation to their exports to many regions. Nonetheless, the focus largely remains on the need for the EU to remain open. An important element to mention in this respect is the fact that, from 2024, 85% of the world’s GDP growth is expected to come from outside the EU. This is clearly highlighted in the EU Trade strategy and, together with fact that EU exports support 35 million jobs in the EU, a strong enough rationale to ensure that an open trade policy remains a cornerstone of the EU international relations strategy and instrumental as part of the EU’s recovery plans. Being open does not equate to being naïve: it is merely a realisation that we all benefit from this openness, be it for imports, as is often forgotten, or for exports, which are so essential to our sector, but also to Europe’s current and future prosperity. In this respect, a more direct mention of Geographical Indications (GIs) and the vital contributions that they make to Europe’s growth and job creation would have been welcome.         

The new Strategy places a strong focus on multilateralism, with an entire annex devoted to the reform of the WTO, and on enforcement and implementation, perhaps at the expense of the bilateral trade agenda. While we regret the fact that comparatively little emphasis is placed on the bilateral agenda, focused on removing market access barriers for export-driven sectors such as ours, we very much welcome the increased focus on enforcement – something we had been calling for for a long time – and the confirmation that multilateralism, and in particular the WTO, is more important than ever. We also welcome the focus on the US and China, which are our two biggest export markets outside of the EU, and the new emphasis placed on Africa, a growing market fo where trade can deliver tangible benefits in terms of sustainable development. The call for a more strategic approach to international regulatory cooperation is another element we support and encourage, as we face a growing number of regulatory hurdles and barriers, on all continents.

At a time when the value of trade for society is sometimes brought into question, the greater focus on trade as an instrument to pursue other policies and objectives, not least in relation to sustainability, is understandable. We support this greater focus on sustainability objectives, which is in line with the daily practices and experiences of our members in many markets, who do not only support countless jobs in Europe and abroad, including in developing countries but are also involved in many projects to increase sustainability, from recycling to access to water. The best way of encouraging these developments and the path towards sustainability is to ensure that trade remains open, today more than ever.

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