Employers believe that the business community has a crucial role to play in spreading a positive message about trade and in explaining what an ambitious trade policy can achieve. It is businesses that can tell the story of the practical benefits stemming from trade agreements. This was the main message that the members of the EESC Employers' Group delivered to Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Trade, during their meeting on 6 December 2017.
The Commissioner presented the current state of play in ongoing EU trade negotiations. She informed members that technical issues in the EU-Japan deal were expected to be finalised within weeks. There was also major progress in the Mexico and Mercosur negotiations.
Ms Malmström underlined that the Commission was continuing its efforts to make trade negotiations as transparent as possible. Also, when a trade agreement came into force, it needed to be given proper attention. "We would like employers to get even more closely involved in explaining the benefits of trade", she said.
European trade policy should be open and inclusive but could not be naïve and unconditional, stressed Jacek Krawczyk, president of the Employers' Group. He summarised the results of the recent EESC mission to the US and Canada and gave an account of the trade-related event organised by the Group in September 2017 in Poland (summary of the event available here).
He admitted that the ratification of CETA would be a long and challenging process. The more effective the implementation of the provisional application, the more the benefits of CETA could be demonstrated to sceptics and the greater the chances of full ratification.
During the discussion, EESC members raised a number of questions relating to various aspects of EU trade policy, including:
- What is the current state of play regarding a Multilateral Investment Court and new trade defence instruments?
- EU-Japan FTA: what is the timeline for ratification? What progress has been accomplished in negotiations regarding e-commerce?
- How are the negotiations with Mercosur progressing and what are some possible ways of speeding them up?
- Are there any recent developments relating to TTIP?
- Have recent EU-Africa summits brought any conclusions on trade-related issues?
The members reassured the Commissioner that employers supported the Commission in its pursuit of an ambitious European trade agenda based on openness and reciprocity. The Group was looking forward to further close cooperation on trade policy.