In the past few weeks and months, US President Donald Trump has thrown international trade policy into disarray. As well as breaching WTO international rules by imposing punitive tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Europe, he has also threatened to impose additional tariffs on German cars.
The US has now also withdrawn from the joint communiqué issued at the end of the G7 summit. In short, Donald Trump is currently presenting both European and international trade policy with enormous challenges.
It is important that Europe does not freeze like a deer in headlights, but instead strengthens its connections around the world, driving forward multilateral, open and rules-based trade. We can open up new trading horizons by looking to Australia and New Zealand.
All parties are currently concluding agreements with numerous other countries, and it is therefore only logical that they should intensify trade relationships with one another and make them fit for the 21st century.
As Chair of Parliament’s delegation for Australia and New Zealand, I am in regular contact with both countries and am working on strengthening their relationships with the EU.
The connections between the EU and both countries are deeply historically and culturally rooted. We share values and principles. The EU has had a close and friendly partnership with Australia and New Zealand for many years.
The trade volume between the EU and Australia recently totalled more than €47.7bn. With New Zealand the figure was €8.7bn. Trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand would make it easier for EU companies to enter the valuable Asia-Pacific markets. Both sides could benefit from preferred bilateral trade, creating additional sales opportunities.
Industrial products are currently the largest export from the EU to Australia, while the main exports the other way are primarily mineral raw materials and agricultural products. New Zealand also mainly exports agricultural products to the EU.
The aim of the trade agreement with the two countries should therefore focus on reducing tariffs and other obstacles to trade and generally achieving cost savings and better sales opportunities, but not on fully liberalising the sensitive area of the European agricultural sector.
Certain areas of food production such as protected geographical indications must be safeguarded and our environmental and consumer standards must be maintained and where possible expanded.
Europe’s finance ministers asked the Commission to start the relevant negotiations for trade agreements with both countries in May. We are now expecting rapid but diligent negotiations in line with the declared aim of the EU of ensuring a global, fair and rule-based trading system.
I hope that the upcoming negotiations will be approached with transparency and trust on both sides and that ultimately they will result in a balanced, win-win agreement.
Europe’s response to Donald Trump’s isolationist policy should be a commitment to openness, free and rules-based trade and fair collaboration with our international partners.