Committee guide 2020 | INTA: Forward-looking and independent

Growing global uncertainty is the single biggest challenge for EU trade policy, writes Bernd Lange.
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By Bernd Lange

04 Feb 2020


What do you see as the INTA committee’s principle priorities for the next couple of years?

I see three main issues for the Committee on International Trade (INTA) in this legislative term, the first of which is sustainability. We need to ensure that our trade agreements support labour rights, human rights and the environment and that they do not work to their detriment. There is growing recognition of the environmental impact of our policies and we will need to find ways to address this too. The second issue is enforcement and implementation. We have seen that the devil is in the detail. Therefore, implementing the agreements and the legislation that we already have in place in a meaningful way must be a priority. Simply adding new agreements on top of the pile and moving on to the next negotiation is a recipe for disaster. Finally, our trade policy must be consistent with other policy areas. To give you an example: we cannot, on the one hand, fight harmful subsidies for fishing fleets in the WTO while at the same time calling for their support in our domestic fisheries policies. Inconsistencies like these cost the EU time and money but also make us a less influential actor on the global stage.


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What are the biggest challenges facing INTA and how do you plan to tackle them?

The INTA Committee’s single biggest challenge will certainly be the growing uncertainty in the world. Brexit, the very unclear future of the WTO and the aggressive trade policies of some of our trading partners have fundamentally reshaped the landscape we are facing.

"I hope that trade policy will be seen as a tool to ensure jobs in Europe, contribute to a fairer world order and increase the standards of living, working and the environment worldwide"

In which policy areas do you think citizens will see the greatest benefit from your work over the next couple of years?

Trade has an impact on many areas of everyday life, but it is often indirect and hard to measure. Trade affects jobs and prospects for job creation, overall economic performance, the range of products and services consumers can choose from, our relationships with other parts of the world and the situation within those countries themselves. I hope that trade policy will be seen as a tool to ensure jobs in Europe, contribute to a fairer world order and increase the standards of living, working and the environment worldwide.

How can the EU’s international trade strategy survive the trade wars being embarked upon by Donald Trump?

I am not too worried about the EU losing its capability to conduct a forward-looking and independent trade policy. We should not forget that the EU is the biggest trading block in the world, with a wide net of global trading partners. This puts us in a much more comfortable position than many smaller countries in the world, which have less clout and may be more dependent on individual partner countries. We of course see what other countries are doing, we recognise that some may be less inclined to pursue a path that puts cooperation and partnership first, but those countries do not dictate our policies.

"I am not too worried about the EU losing its capability to conduct a forward-looking and independent trade policy. We should not forget that the EU is the biggest trading block in the world"

With an increasingly protectionist us trade policy, how important is it for the EU to support the world trade organisation, and what more would you like to see Europe do?

The WTO is the foundation of a rules-based global trading order and as such it is of immense importance to the EU, but also to every other nation engaging in international trade. This does not mean that it is without fault, far from it. However, I fundamentally disagree with the notion that the right way forward is to tear the entire house down and try to rebuild a perfect institution from the ground up. I think we have achieved too much, and that the WTO is too valuable, for such a radical approach. I also believe that change and reform are possible when working with other members, even if we do not see eye to eye on every issue. Nevertheless, more and more countries have understood that change is necessary and that this may imply entering into a compromise for the greater good.

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