Encouraging results in Shanghai

Source: A.C. (Cecilia) Malmström i, published on Monday, July 11 2016.

I attended the G20 Trade Ministers' meeting in Shanghai over the weekend. Issues on the agenda included the path forward for the multilateral WTO negotiations, ways to address the slowing growth of world trade and investment, as well as responses to growing protectionist pressure.

Two days under the chairmanship of China's Minister of Commerce, Gao Hucheng, allowed the participants to discuss from a number of viewpoints and priorities, underscoring a shared sense of the challenges ahead that require a collective response from the G20. Part of that response was captured in three outcome documents from the meeting, agreed by all G20 Trade Ministers: a statement laying out a number of joint commitments; a set of non-binding guiding principles for global investment policymaking; and a G20 strategy aimed at supporting global trade growth.

The first-ever consensus statement by G20 Trade Ministers is very significant particularly on two issues of major importance for the European Union. First, all G20 members recognised the need to reduce excess capacity in industrial sectors such as steel. At the meeting, I stressed that the current levels of excess capacity - supported by unfair subsidies and other types government support - cause severe distortions on global markets, putting undue pressure on companies and workers in the European Union. Second, G20 participants agreed to set the end of 2016 as the target date for concluding the negotiations on the Environmental Goods Agreement. This agreement would eliminate tariffs on environmentally friendly products and facilitate trade in them in other ways as well. The agreement would demonstrate that beyond purely economic benefits, trade can make a major contribution to broader goals and environmental challenges, such as fighting climate change.

Throughout the meeting I insisted that the G20 as a forum of the largest economies of the world has a major responsibility in addressing these critical issues, and called on China as the current presidency of the G20 to show leadership for reaching consensus. However the viewpoints were quite diverging, and the final agreement was reached only at the very end of the two-day meeting following very intense discussions between China, the EU, and the US. Now it is critical for the G20 participants to follow through and deliver on these commitments.

The investment principles that we agreed on underscore the importance of openness for investment, non-discrimination and the right to regulate. This shows that there is potential for more work to improve the coherence and legitimacy of global investment policy. From the EU side, we are determined to pursue this through several initiatives. An important future goal for us is the setting-up of an international investment court.

I also took the opportunity to reaffirm to all our partners at the G20 that the recent UK referendum will not have an impact on the EU's ambitious trade and investment agenda. We will continue to actively pursue multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral trade initiatives.

Now, I am in Beijing for the EU-China Summit this week and the EU-China Joint Committee on trade today. Yesterday, I spoke to students at the University of International Business and Economics about the EU-China trade relationship , as well as the potential of negotiations for an EU China Investment Agreement, and the rule of law in China. The full speech is available here.