Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva said the first discussion among EU member states over the European Union’s future trade policy was “an excellent starting point,” although tough debates on trade and climate policy have yet to be addressed.
Following an informal videoconference of the Foreign Affairs Council, Santos Silva held a joint press conference with the European Commission’s executive vice-president responsible for trade, Valdis Dombrovskis.
“This was a very productive meeting. We focused on the European trade policy review,” Santos Silva said, referring to the European Commission’s revamped trade agenda, outlined on 18 February.
“The Commission’s communication was an excellent starting point for our discussion and will naturally be the basis on which we will build the draft conclusions, to be adopted at our next formal meeting in May,” he told reporters.
“I think it was a very productive meeting,” he added, saying the Portuguese EU presidency “will take into consideration all the contributions given by the member states”.
Dombrovskis also acknowledged that the initial reaction was “globally positive” but said there were still areas that needed more discussion such as “the issue of sustainability, the link [between trade policy] and the climate, and the reform of the World Trade Organisation”.
According to Dombrovskis, the EU’s trade strategy for the next decade “must first and foremost contribute to the European economic recovery” because “more than ever the Union expects exports to drive it.”
“That is why we reaffirm our commitment to open, fair and rules-based trade. This is not just European idealism. It is an economic and political necessity,” Dombrovskis added.
The trade commissioner also underlined that the EU’s new trade agenda should make a greater contribution to other priorities, namely supporting the green and digital transitions, which is why the Commission has placed sustainability “at the heart of trade policy for the first time”.
Las month, the European Commission presented its strategy for renewing the EU’s trade policy, making it more “open, sustainable and assertive”, particularly regarding its main trading partners, China and the United States.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]