Friday

18th Oct 2019

Hogan sets out trade plans at commissioner grilling

  • Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan has been involved in EU trade negotiations before (Photo: European Commission)

The US needs to realise its common interests with the EU, be tough on China, and defend the multilateral rules-based trade - that is what Ireland's Phil Hogan, poised to be in charge of EU trade for the next five years, told MEPs at his grilling on Monday evening (30 September).

The current agriculture commissioner fielded questions from EU lawmakers for two-and-a-half hours. He is expected to be approved by the relevant committee.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Trade has become a political focal point in recent years, with trade deals having divided voters, China competing unfairly according to critics, and the US administration fuelling a global trade war.

Brexit will also add to the bulging portfolio, as the EU and the UK will need to work out a trade deal after Britain leaves the block.

Hogan said he would work towards a more balanced and more mutually-beneficial relationship with the US, but that Washington needs to realise its mutual interests with the EU and shared concerns on China.

"It takes two to tango," he said, adding that he wants to build on the agreement reached between US president Donald Trump and EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in July 2018, when the bloc avoided tariffs on car imports threatened by Trump.

"Unfortunately we have not seen much movement on that agenda since then," Hogan said.

Washington and Brussels agreed to negotiate a deal to remove tariffs on industrial goods, but the talks have come to a deadlock as the US insists that agricultural goods must also be included, which the EU has ruled out.

But Hogan also said the EU should not lose sight of the "big picture".

"We trade €3bn a day with the United States and the EU-US relationship remains the largest and deepest economic relationship in the world," Hogan said.

"I'm committed to working on a positive transatlantic agenda," Hogan added.

MEPs quizzed Hogan on the impending US tariff on EU goods, following a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling on subsidies rearing the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

He cautioned saying "let's see what the extent of the decision will be in the form of retaliation, then we will have to evaluate it," but also added: "The EU needs to stand up for itself".

He recalled that a similar WTO decision is expected on US firm Boeing, making any US move on tariffs counterproductive, as the EU would also draw up a list of US products to be targeted by tariffs.

Hogan pointed to a July deal on importing more beef from the US, which he said is an example of the EU's willingness to solve problems through dialogue.

Hogan also pledged that he will do his "utmost to prevent the collapse of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism".

There are fears the WTO's main trade arbitration body will fail because the US has been blocking the appointment of judges.

He said the organisation needs to be reformed to maintain a global trade based on rules rather than the law of the jungle.

Hogan said he wanted to strengthen the rules on forced technology transfers, a level playing field, subsidies and transparency.

China

Hogan said, in a nod to France which initiated the tool, the EU should strengthen its investment screening program, aimed at checking investors, especially from China if strategic assets are at stake.

"I would like to see a coordinated and harmonised approach," Hogan said of EU countries, adding that "beefing up the screening mechanism is essential if we want to protect our critical technologies and our critical infrastructure."

The current system allows for an exchange of information among member states that have decided to participate in the scheme.

Hogan also vowed to press ahead with reciprocity in public procurement, meaning that Chinese companies should not be able to bid in EU public tenders if Beijing does not open its markets to EU firms.

Amazon

Hogan defended the EU's trade deal with South American countries Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, following criticism from MEPs that Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro's policies contribute to the Amazon fires.

France and Ireland have said they would not ratify the Mercosur trade deal unless Brazil does more to fight fires in the Amazon.

Hogan said that the deal itself was the leverage, and the only EU leverage, that made Bolsonaro soften his Amazon policies.

Hogan was less convincing on protecting labour standards. "I very much strongly support the use of trade and trade instruments and trade policy," he said.

Brexit and beyond

Even though the Irishman would be in charge of a post-Brexit trade negotiation, there was little time spent on the UK leaving the EU at the hearing.

"It is very hard to know what direction the UK will go because they can't seem to get a deal through the House of Commons," Hogan said, avoiding a question on what a future trade deal would look like.

He said the negotiating red lines of EU countries, and the parliament, such as level playing field, consumer protection, and standards, would be protected.

Opinion

Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal

The European parliament debates on Tuesday the fires in the Amazon region. "It goes without saying that, in light of the gravity of the situation, Europe will need to renegotiate the Mercosur agreement", writes MEP Kathleen Van Brempt.

Germany hopes for quick EU-US trade deal

Merkel wants an US-EU trade deal as soon as possible, she said, amid potential US tariffs on the car industry, a vital German sector in hard times.

Commission defends Mercosur trade deal

EU commissioners defended a far-reaching free trade agreement between the EU and four Latin American countries, against critics who fear it will damage European farmers' livelihoods and the global environment.

EU top court backs Canada trade deal in ruling

The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that the EU-Canada free trade agreement, and its controversial dispute settlement mechanism, is in line with the bloc's rules.

US to put tariffs on European whiskies, cheese

After a 15-year legal battle, the US was given the green light to impose tariffs on EU products. The EU is threatening countermeasures but wants to negotiate. Transatlantic ties have suffered another blow.

News in Brief

  1. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  2. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  3. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  4. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  5. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  6. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  7. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products
  8. G7: Libra should not operate until all risks addressed

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us