Brussels (29 November) - The Slovak Presidency and EurActiv i.com has teamed up for a high-level stakeholder workshop dubbed 'EU trade policy at the crossroads' today. The Presidency was represented by Rastislav Chovanec, State Secretary of the Slovak Ministry of Economy.
“Free trade has now become part of domestic politics and we need to adapt ways we communicate and explain trade policy,” said State Secretary Chovanec. “Trade deals are complex but the debate is often emotional, with many shortcuts based on perceptions.”
Mr Chovanec also stressed that some negative aspects of globalisation cannot be directly linked with trade. “Certain jobs may be lost, but many more are created - similarly seen as a consequence of digitalisation.” It is therefore important to have solid “impact assessments based on big data” so we can better understand and respond to effects of trade on various segments of citizens, he underlined.
The workshop has gathered representatives of the European institutions, national authorities, trade associations as well as the private sector to take stock of current EU trade policy trends and discuss the way forward. Mauro Petriccione from DG Trade, Liina Carr from the European Trade Union Confederation i and Luisa Santos representing the BusinessEurope were among key speakers alongside R. Chovanec.
During their exchange of views, the speakers have agreed that the EU trade policy has found itself at the crossroads, as the year 2016 has seen challenging negotiations with a number of international partners, notably Canada and the US. Trade agreements with Japan, Australia or New Zealand are in the making.
At the same time, recently signed trade agreement between the EU and the Canada (CETA) however proves that the EU delivers in its key policy area of free and fair trade.
With 30 million jobs depending on exports outside the EU and the new 'Trade for All' strategy proposed by the European Commission, the debate also focused on main obstacles to the future of the EU trade policy that can be a crucial engine for growth and jobs in Europe. The EU's credibility as a negotiating partner and the lack of a balanced well-informed debate on the EU trade policy were among the discussed topics, too.
The area of trade belongs to top priorities of the Slovak Presidency, which nowadays seeks a compromise on the modernisation of the common trade defence instruments. It is the Presidency's intention to move a step closer to a possible agreement by the end of this year - in line with the October European Council conclusions - in order to help EU producers cope with unfair competition and practices.