Remarks by Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis at the Press Conference at the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade)

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Merci Monsieur le Ministre, dear colleagues,

The geopolitical landscape is changing rapidly. This requires EU trade policy to adapt, while we continue to pursue the global goals set out in our new trade policy strategy.

Russia’s continuing aggression against Ukraine is the main – but not the only – factor causing this recalibration.

We continue to provide all necessary support to Ukraine, while pushing hard to further isolate Russia.

Trade has a role to play in achieving both objectives.

In fact, the decision to suspend import duties on all Ukrainian exports for one year was published today, and will enter into force tomorrow.

I thanked Member States for their support and the European Parliament, because co-legislators adopted this proposal in record time.

In a wider sense, Russia’s aggression is having a significant negative impact on the global economy and trading system.

This has highlighted the importance of open markets and well-functioning supply chains. But more importantly, it has shown that democratic values need to be firmly embedded in global institutions and systems.

For this reason, the EU is re-engaging, reinforcing and re-examining our global relationships.

The war in Ukraine has given renewed purpose – has focused minds – concerning the transatlantic relationship, and we have taken considerable steps forward in the last months.

We held a successful second meeting of the Trade and Technology Council last month, where one can say that the TTC has grown into a key platform to pursue a positive agenda with the United States.

I would like to thank France once again for hosting in May the second TTC meeting in Paris.

So, I debriefed Member States on the outcomes of the TTC. Many speakers stressed that bringing down trade barriers – or preventing new ones from emerging – is key. There was a broad call for the TTC to remain results-driven and focus on concrete projects.

Indeed, this is the approach that we are taking for the next TTC meeting in December. Just to give some examples:

On export controls, we want to capitalise on the cooperation achieved during the war.

We will also be looking at building more resilient supply chains for semiconductors. The same goes for critical raw materials, where we are exploring a so-called concept of “friend-shoring”.

And our teams will continue to work, for example, on a standard for electric vehicle chargers. That would certainly provide substantial efficiencies of scale and is just one concrete example of how our efforts can facilitate trade and investment.

We also had an exchange of views on the prospects for EU-China trade and investment relationship.

It has to be seen against the backdrop of both geopolitical shifts and new challenges to the global economic environment.

It is clear that China’s ambiguous positioning in the context of Russia’s illegal and barbaric war against Ukraine also marks our relationship.

Many speakers emphasised that no EU country should be subject to economic coercion. In this context, there was expression of strong solidarity with Lithuania.

We also discussed the impact of China’s current economic and trade policies on its growth trajectory, and the impact of this for the EU and the global economy.

All in all, it is clear that EU–China relations are increasingly complex.

But there was also a clear view that engagement with China is essential. So we have to be able to talk to one of our biggest trading partners, also about difficult issues.

The multilateral architecture remains critical. The EU continues to push for stronger and better rules at global level.

And we will notably be the strongest proponents for the WTO reform at the upcoming MC12 ministerial in Geneva. It is no secret – and Franck already said – that there is still a lot of work to do to achieve good outcomes at MC12, and other countries would need to match the EU’s level of ambition and commitment to ensure successful outcomes.

It is also true that, in parallel to this multilateral work, we intend to make maximum use of our bilateral trade deals to pursue our economic and geopolitical goals – because the new reality requires that we build closer and deeper relationships with our trusted partners.

Accordingly, we must seek a new consensus on how to advance our bilateral partnerships: clearly, business as usual is not an option.

Today, we discussed with Ministers the possible parameters of this new consensus.

Our trade agreements should help to diversify our sources of supply and create export opportunities.

Geopolitically, the privileged partnerships created by our trade deals provide a way to deepen relations and draw partners closer to us on other issues.

We can also make better use of our trade agreements to pursue ambitious objectives on climate, environment and sustainability.

And we will continue to work on better enforcement and implementation of existing trade deals, which can also make a real difference.

To bolster our bilateral agenda, we need to get over the finish line agreements which have been negotiated – like Chile, Mexico or Mercosur.

These are important deals, with large potential for generating mutual benefits.

We also need to advance ongoing negotiations for new deals, notably New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and India.

So it is a challenging moment for EU trade. But our policy is sufficiently strong and flexible to adapt to this new geopolitical reality.

Thank you.

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