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Introductory Remarks by Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis at the Foreign Affairs Council Trade Press Conference

Introductory Remarks given yesterday by Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis at the Foreign Affairs Council Trade Press Conference.

"Check against delivery"

Thank you Minister, honourable colleagues, first of all thank you for hosting this meeting today. We had a useful discussion on a number of pressing issues. 

Our key points included:

  • The EU's trade policy review;
  • The outlook for the reform of the World Trade Organization;
  • And trade relations with the U.S. and China.

Let me start with our trade policy review.

The public consultation on this has been very successful. We received over 200 contributions so far from a wide range of key stakeholders.

The public consultation ends on 15 November. We will analyse the findings, and continue engagement with the Member States and the European Parliament, with a view to adopting a Communication on an updated trade policy in Europe in early 2021.

The reform of the World Trade Organization will be an important element of the Trade Policy Review. We discussed this in-depth.

I have informed the ministers that we seek quick progress on the following files:

  • Sustainability, including fisheries subsidies;
  • the negotiations on new global rules, including e-commerce;
  • and on ways that small businesses worldwide can take advantage of opportunities provided by the WTO.

I informed the ministers that I had announced a WTO Trade and Climate initiative.

We were also able to discuss the “Trade and Health” initiative. Our objective is to push all the WTO members to take immediate actions to contribute to the fight against COVID-19.

I also briefed ministers on the state of play in negotiations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with China.

Negotiations are at an advanced stage. Our priority issues continue to be market access, level playing field and sustainable development.

However, we still need China to move significantly. As I have always said, substance should take priority over speed.

We also discussed trade relations with the U.S. We offered our warm congratulations to President-elect Biden.

We will have a full “transatlantic to-do list”.  Our priority will be a positive and forward-looking agenda, both bilaterally and on global challenges. The key areas are WTO reform and trade and climate change.

We should also work to jointly establish a trade and technology council where we could cooperate on new technologies and digital services and be aligned on regulation and standards.

We also need to tackle current disputes, notably on civil aviation.

We have made clear at every stage that we want to settle this long-running issue. Regrettably, in spite of our best efforts, due to lack of progress from the U.S. side, we can confirm that the European Union will later today exercise our rights and impose the countermeasures awarded to us by the WTO in respect of Boeing.

I would remind you that the U.S. has imposed its tariffs on the EU for over a year.

We call on the U.S. to agree that both sides drop existing countermeasures with immediate effect, so that we can quickly put this issue behind us. Removing these tariffs would represent a strong win-win for both sides. We now have an opportunity to reboot our transatlantic cooperation and work together towards our shared goals.

Finally, we discussed with ministers an important recent success:  the agreement on the final shape of the strengthened enforcement regulation.

The new provisions will substantially improve the way the EU can defend itself against undue attacks in international trade.

We hope for a similarly positive outcome in the upcoming final trilogue on the modernisation of the so-called “Dual Use” Regulation.

These are important steps forward for our trade agenda and show that we are following through on our commitment to strengthen our tools where necessary.

Thank you.

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