Highlights of the new EU Trade Policy, released October 2015

The European Commission has released a new Trade Policy “Trade for All: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy”.

In the opening preface, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom notes

“It is clear Europeans want trade to deliver real economic results for consumers, workers and small companies. However, they also believe open markets do not require us to compromise on core principles, like human rights and sustainable development around the world or high quality safety and environmental regulation and public services at home. They also want to know more about trade negotiations carried out in their name.”

“In this new strategy… the Commission is adapting its approach to trade policy to take all of these lessons on board. As a result, trade policy will become more responsible, meaning it will be more effective, more transparent and will not only project our interests, but also our values.”

“Making trade more effective means that trade policy must be updated if it is to continue delivering economic opportunities. The new approach ensures that trade policy will effectively address issues that affect today’s value chain-based economy, like services, digital trade and the movement of experts, senior managers and service providers.”

“To make trade negotiations more transparent, the strategy commits to publishing key negotiating texts from all negotiations….”

“The new approach also involves using trade agreements and trade preference programmes as levers to promote, around the world, values like sustainable development human rights, fair and ethical trade and the fight against corruption. We will use future EU agreements to improve the responsibility of supply chains.”

Importantly for Australia, the new EU Trade Policy explicitly seeks to enhance the EU’s strategic engagement in the Asia Pacific region.

Building on the EU’s existing footprint in the region, with an FTA with Korea, an ASEAN strategy based on individual agreements as building blocks towards an EU-ASEAN framework; ongoing FTA negotiations with Japan and investment negotiations with China and Myanmar, the EU will now launch investment negotiations with Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The European Commission will also now seek a mandate to launch FTA negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, “taking into account the EU agricultural sensitivities”.

The new Trade Policy draws attention to the fact that as a whole, the EU constitutes the world’s largest exporter and importer of total goods and services, and is both the world’s largest foreign direct investor and the most important FDI destination. The EU is the largest trading partner for about 80 countries and the second most important for another 40.

Read full policy details here.

Watch this space: This is the first in a series of follow-up blogs exploring specific aspects of the new EU Trade Policy and implications for Australia and for the Asia Pacific region.

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