On 6 July, the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA) met for an exchange of views on the EU trade policy review with Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Trade, and invited experts. Mr Hogan outlined the reasons for bringing the review forward as well as its broad aims. These included the Commission’s broader aims around sustainability and digitalisation, while also preventing uncompetitive practices internationally and supporting European SMEs.
Commissioner Hogan opened his comments by explaining that this trade review, the first since 2015, is appropriate because of geopolitical changes, such as China’s rise and the American retreat in the area of trade. He spoke of the ‘weaponization of trade policy’, regretting that this had weakened multilateral trade frameworks. The Commissioner argued that the EU should use its influence to shape global trade policy.
Mr Hogan highlighted two main considerations for the upcoming review: (i) trade policy that encourages a “swift” socio-economic recovery, reinforcing Europe’s competitiveness and promoting European values in the process and (ii) the pursuit of ‘open strategic autonomy’ for the EU, by building supply chain resilience and protecting businesses from uncompetitive trade practices.
He highlighted three particular strands of work: promoting SMEs, supporting sustainability through trade policy, and tackling ‘hostile’ trade regimes from other international actors.
A strengthened toolbox would be required to tackle ‘coercive, distortive, and unfair trade practices’ from third countries, Commissioner Hogan continued. He also defended the WTO as the referee of the international trade order, but stated it needed root and branch reform in order to implement proper global rules. The EU will put forward proposals on how to strengthen the WTO.
Finally, Mr Hogan said he wanted input from MEPs and stakeholders in this review process, including through a planned series of events later this year.
Experts invited to speak during the debate included Beata Jaborcik, Chief Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Pascal Lamy, Chair of the Paris Peace Forum and President emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institute.
Ms Javorcik argued that trade plays a crucial role for the economic recovery, but warned against national protectionist measures and the ‘reshoring’ of supply chains.
Mr Lamy highlighted four concerning trade trends: the US-Chinese trade conflict, Chinese exceptionalism, national ‘precautionism’, and fragmentation of the international regulatory system. He explained that these trends would be particularly damaging to developing countries and agreed that richer countries pumping money into their economies in an uncoordinated way risked distorting international trade flows.
Mr Lamy urged the EU to keep its trade policy open. The EU’s position as the largest global market gives the EU leverage in international negotiations on international trade frameworks. He said that any reshoring should be ‘carefully calibrated’ at EU level. He concluded by encouraging the EU to maintain good relations with the U.S. and China, while pushing them towards further binding commitments.
The CRM Alliance welcomes the Commission’s efforts to ensure a swift economic recovery and to pursue ‘open strategic autonomy’ for the EU. We also very much appreciate the will to create a global level playing field and to fight unfair competition.
The trade review also provides a unique opportunity for the EU to reassess its value chains.
We feel, however, that the current initiatives mentioned by Commissioner Hogan fail to address the importance of these value chains and the crucial role of critical raw materials therein. CRMs are key components to have open strategic autonomy, to build more resilience, to enhance digitalization, and to enable the green transition. The development of dedicated initiatives to rethink our supply chains to secure the supply of CRMs should therefore be a top priority.