New EU Trade Strategy - New approach?

On 14 October, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström presented the new trade strategy of the European Commission entitled “Trade for all. Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy”. What looks at first sight like a shift away from the trade liberalisation we know until now towards a more global strategy “for all”, has to be evaluated with a lot more caution when looking closer to the details. Although the strategy keeps referring to the principles of effectiveness, transparency and the safeguarding of European values, all with a global – WTO-related – approach, the current practice of the Commission in negotiating trade agreements draws another picture.
The EU is currently involved in the negotiations with the US (TTIP), Canada (CETA, finalised), and several other countries regarding the trade in services (TiSA), to name but a few and thereby exactly not following the approach of inclusive trade agreements involving also poorer countries – but rather having exclusive trade agreements with the more developed countries.

The new trade strategy pretends to promote sustainable development with global value chains as a core principle but concrete proposals or actions are missing in the paper. SOLIDAR regrets the lack of proposals on how to ensure binding social, human rights, environmental or health and safety standards that need to be enshrined in all trade agreements the EU is involved in. A responsible trade strategy could help fight the root causes of migration and lead to a more sustainable development worldwide.

However, SOLIDAR welcomes the clear statement on public and social services in the paper, stating that “EU trade agreements do not and will not prevent governments at any level from providing, supporting or regulating services in areas such as water, education, health, and social services …].” This statements needs to be translated into reality – a process that is still not visible in TTIP or TiSA, as the latest document leaks show.
The Commission has to live up to its promises laid down in the strategic paper and repeated during the stakeholders meeting on 20 October with Commissioner Malmström. Trade is not an end to itself, it is a tool to benefit people, as the paper rightly states.

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