A future trade strategy should ensure that the EU remains open for trade and investment, while it is able to adapt to increasing geopolitical and economic challenges. Safeguarding a rules-based trade that covers multilateral and bilateral strategies is important in this respect.
The USA and China are not only our main trading partners; they are also our competitors, therefore the EU’s strategy towards them should be recalibrated carefully to better reflect the nature of the relationship. The EU also plays an important role in the neighbourhood. In this regard, it is essential to ensure a close and as frictionless as possible relationship with the UK, post-Brexit, promote an ambitious approach towards Africa and ensure progress in relation with countries in the Western Balkans and Turkey.
The EU should also work on rules that reflect the current and future needs of trade and investment. Starting at the multilateral level, the EU should lead the reform process in the World Trade Organisation, in order to safeguard the organisation and ensure the effective functioning of all its pillars – trade liberalisation, monitoring and enforcement. Deficiencies in the functioning of the WTO Appellate Body should be addressed as a matter of priority. At the same time, developing new rules, for instance in the area of e-commerce and reinforcing existing rules, such as on industrial subsidies and state-owned enterprises should also be promoted.
At the bilateral level, the EU already has a vast network of free trade agreements which will be further expanded once those currently under negotiation are concluded. These agreements have ambitious and comprehensive provisions, ranging from access to markets to high-level technical and sustainability standards. It is important that, as more and more agreements enter into force, greater attention is paid to implementation and monitoring. This requires the active participation not only of EU institutions, but also of Member States and the civil society with an important role for business.
Finally, the EU should look at all instruments at its disposal to ensure a level playing field in trade and investment, for instance by reinforcing the Market Access Strategy and looking at solutions in the area of public procurement. The EU should also use tools to better leverage the export potential of EU companies, especially SMEs.
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