PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY FOR THE ECONOMY, INVESTMENT AND SMALL BUSINESS: EU trade ministers discuss the evolving trade environment at the first Informal Trade Meeting in Malta

The evolving trade environment was the key theme throughout the first Informal Trade Council held in Malta as part of the Maltese Presidency of the European Council, chaired by Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business Chris Cardona.

The Informal Trade Council held constructive talks with Director General of the WTO Roberto Azevedo and Chairperson of the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament Bernd Lange. This discussion provided Roberto Azevedo’s insight into which possible outcomes could come out of the next WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires. This was followed by the expectations of the Commission, Bernd Lange’s views and the views of the EU trade ministers.

The discussions noted the importance of strengthening multilateralism in trade and also warned that protectionism will lead to a downward spiral. Nevertheless, the participants agreed that the benefits that emanate from trade would need to be shared by everyone, thereby avoiding losers. In this regard there was an emphasis on having the trade system cater for the needs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as the needs of developing countries.

During the first working session held today, the ministers were invited to discuss the state of play and the way forward with regard to the legislative proposal on a new anti-dumping methodology, issued by the European Commission late last year. This proposal is a focus for the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, which aims for a Council position this spring.

Considering the wider context of a dynamic global trade scenario, the Presidency will further intensify work in the run-up to the Foreign Affairs Council on Trade in May. Trade defence reform should be based on a robust WTO compatible system founded on the universally applicable concept of significant distortions. Furthermore, EU law should be in line with international commitments and a predictable, accessible, balanced and effective system for EU industry operators in the interests of free, fair and competitive trade.

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia MalmstrAlm also gave a presentation on the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the introduction of temporary Autonomous Trade Measures (ATM) for Ukraine. This proposal aims to improve access for Ukraine to the EU market for some industrial products as well as agricultural products, in order to support the development of closer economic relations with the European Union, in view of the difficult economic situation and the economic reform efforts undertaken by Ukraine.

The ministers were also briefed on the progress made in the Multilateral Investment Court proposal during the second working session. The Commission gave a detailed account of the work it is conducting together with the Canadian government to raise awareness amongst third countries on the necessity to reform investment dispute settlement by a more transparent efficient and permanent Multilateral Investment Court System. The member states encouraged the Commission to gain critical mass in support of this project and to seek further technical work at Council level to progress further aiming to the establish of a Multilateral System for the Settlement of Investment Dispute Settlements.

The EU is facing a very challenging trade policy environment, due to both external and internal factors. This was discussed during the working lunch, with particular interest into the evolving trade scenario following the US elections. The ministers also discussed the impact of these challenges on ongoing EU trade negotiations. TTIP negotiations are currently at a standstill, however Minister Cardona said that transatlantic relations, in particular with the US, should be in both the EU’s and the US’s mutual interest in order to avoid disruptions to transatlantic trade.

“Trade is not an end in itself, but is a tool that should result in the economic benefit for people. Our priorities will remain the safeguarding and the creation of the right climate for trade and opportunity to flourish within a united European market”, noted Minister Cardona.

Source: Government of Malta