February 24, 2021

Brussels seeks the alliance with Biden to reform the WTO while seeing the agreement with China as a “priority”



The new concept in Brussels this Thursday morning is Open Strategic Autonomy (OSA, in its acronym in English). It is a development of the Sinatra doctrine coined by the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borell– in reference to My way, a my way, applied to European foreign policy-. That is to say, that the promise of a geopolitical European Commission as announced by President Ursula von der Leyen translates into having one’s own voice in the world and making it valid.

This Thursday the European Commission presented a new trade strategy, a few days after the Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman on Monday to hold the post of director general of the World Trade Organization with the support of The United States, which is once again playing an active role in multilateral organizations after the withdrawal of the Donald Trump administration. And it is a strategy based “on the opening up of the EU to contribute to economic recovery by supporting ecological and digital transformations, as well as a renewed focus on strengthening multilateralism and reforming global trade rules to ensure they are fair and sustainable “.

In this sense, the main elements go through China, the United States and the WTO, whose reform is being promoted by the EU. Regarding China, the European Commission considers that “the EU’s trade and investment relationship with Beijing is a major challenge. Building a fairer and more rules-based economic relationship with China is a priority.” In this regard, the European Commission “establishes ways to address the complexities of dealing with China and to ensure that the EU has effective political tools to enforce its rights.”

Shortly before the end of the year, Brussels and Beijing signed the foundations of a global investment agreement, “an important step forward in EU-China trade relations that forms an element of the EU’s broader and multiple strategy towards China” .

“The work to ratify it will require a clear commitment towards the effective implementation of the agreement, on market access, commitments to a level playing field and sustainable development,” explains Brussels.

As for the transatlantic relationship between the EU and the US, Brussels defines it as “the largest and most economically important association in the world, deeply rooted in common interests and values.” Thus, the new US administration “provides the opportunity to work together to reform the WTO, including strengthening its ability to address competitive distortions and contribute to sustainable development. It also offers new perspectives to cooperate closely in the green and digital transformation of our economies.” .

The European Commission understands that this is a “crucial moment in terms of transatlantic relations”, which is why it hopes “to collaborate with the new Joe Biden administration to find solutions to the many problems that lie ahead”.

“The EU has made it very clear that we are ready to turn a new page,” says Brussels, and sets cooperation on WTO reform as a “priority.” And he adds: “For example, to support a greener economy, we have proposed transatlantic leadership in a Trade and Climate initiative within the WTO.”

In this sense, the Community Executive says that “the EU has been and continues to be firm in its support for multilateralism and an international order based on rules. We want to update the global instruction book so that its rules take into account the profound economic developments of The last few decades. Such reform is necessary to ensure the stability and predictability necessary for trade to prosper. That is why WTO reform is our priority. ”

And where should this reform go? The first set of reforms would be “focused on sustainable development to incorporate sustainability into the work of the WTO”. From there: “Strengthen WTO rules against the negative effects of state intervention on members’ economies; facilitate the negotiation of new agreements on issues of importance to groups of WTO members; find a lasting solution to the current deadlock surrounding the WTO’s binding dispute settlement system; making the WTO’s oversight of its members ‘trade policies more effective by increasing the transparency of members’ trade practices; and improving the functioning of the WTO committees “.

Regarding international trade agreements, the European Commission defends “the opportunities offered by EU trade agreements”. The EU has closed or is participating in negotiations of trade agreements in Asia and the Pacific and in Latin America, “which open up important economic opportunities.”

“Therefore,” says Brussels, “it is important to create the conditions for the ratification of the agreements with Mercosur and Mexico, and to conclude the ongoing negotiations, in particular with Chile, Australia and New Zealand, which are on the right track. In the case of Mercosur, a dialogue is being held on improving cooperation in the sustainable development dimension of the Agreement, addressing the implementation of the Paris Agreement and deforestation. This will be a fundamental element of the EU’s drive towards strategic autonomy. open and facilitate access to markets, especially for SMEs. It will also help to counter protectionist trends and distortions affecting EU exports. ”

“Rights and values”

On the other hand, the European Commission affirms that “the EU will not fail to assert its rights and defend its values ​​more assertively and, when necessary, autonomously. The EU will develop tools to face new challenges and protect to European companies and citizens from unfair commercial practices, both internal and external. ”

Thus, it will “make full use of the role of the Chief Trade Enforcement Officer’s (CTEO, the one responsible for ensuring trade agreements) to maximize the benefits of negotiated results for companies, particularly SMEs and farmers, and eliminate obstacles that undermine the potential for compliance with the agreements, including sustainable development. ”

In addition, it aims to “develop new tools on-line to support EU companies, in particular SMEs; strengthen EU tools to protect European companies and citizens from unfair business practices, including through the preparation of an anti-coercion instrument; and explore options for an EU strategy for export credits. ”

“A common strategy would improve coordination between different external financing instruments at EU level, in order to better support EU political priorities, such as tackling climate change and helping EU companies better compete in the world, “says Brussels.


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