Sunday

15th Dec 2019

Magazine

Making EU trade deals work for citizens

  • Bernd Lange (S&D, Germany) expects heated debate on ratifying the Mercosur deal and on dealing with the US (Photo: European Parliament)

As global trade disputes increase, protectionism is on the rise, and climate protection becomes a mainstream political objective, trade is becoming an increasingly political topic.

The trade committee of the European Parliament (INTA) will thus host some heated debates.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Sustainability, and the implementation and enforcement of the EU's trade agreements will be the two basic principles guiding the priorities for the trade committee, German MEP Bernd Lange told EUobserver, when asked about the focus in the next five years.

"When I speak to Europeans in my constituency and elsewhere, I feel that there is a certain amount of expectation in terms of how trade policy can contribute to wider sustainability goals, such as the fight against climate change," the German social democrat said.

European citizens also ask themselves, 'who benefits from the trade deals?', Lange added - referring to the growing number of trade deals the EU has secured and is planning to close.

"They look very good on paper. They also need to deliver clear benefits for European citizens, workers, consumers and businesses alike," the MEP said.

Lange expects some battles over the ratification of the Mercosur trade agreement with Argentina, Brazil Paraguay and Uruguay reached over the summer.

"If INTA will be asked to give its consent to the trade agreement with Mercosur, I believe there will be a strong division in my committee between those who are really critical about this agreement, because of its impact on Europe's agricultural sector and in light of recent political developments in Brazil, and those who are in favour," he said.

These divisions, however, are "nothing new", added Lange, who chaired the committee in the previous parliamentary terms as well.

Lange also expects "very different" views on how to deal with the US administration's trade policy, which has increasingly used tariffs on goods from Europe but at the same wants to reach a trade deal with the EU.

Talks have been on hold, because the US insists agriculture products must be a part of the deal, which the EU does not agree to.

The planned carbon-adjustment measure, an idea to compel other countries to meet he EU's climate standards or face taxes added to their products at the EU's borders, will also undoubtedly face very conflicting interests and views, Lange predicts.

Lange said that under his leadership, the committee has been at the forefront of discussions on the sustainable development measures in trade agreements - but progress has been frustratingly slow and insufficient.

"If at the end of this legislature we can say that we made genuine progress in terms of enforcing these non-trade commitments through our agreements, I think we can be satisfied," he said.

As well as Bernd Lange (S&D, Germany) as chair, the commit consists of the vice-chairs: Jan Zahradil (ECR, Czech Republic), Iuliu Winkler (EPP, Romania), Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou (EPP, Greece), Marie-Pierre Vedrenne (Renew, France).

The coordinators of the INTA committee are: Christophe Hansen (EPP, Luxembourg), Kathleen Van Brempt (S&D, Belgium), Geert Bourgeois (ECR, Belgium), Karin Karlsbro (Renew, Sweden), Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, Germany), Haidi Hautala (Greens/EFA, Finland), and Markus Buchheit (ID, Germany).

This article first appeared in EUobserver's latest magazine, Who's Who in European Parliament Committees, which you can now read in full online.

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.

Exclusive

Zahradil 'conflict of interest' over EU-Vietnam trade deal

Right-wing Czech MEP Jan Zahradil is leading European Parliament negotiations on a trade deal with Vietnam. As rapporteur, he is supposed to be neutral but has neglected to declare his involvement in a group with ties to the Communist party.

Magazine

Six priorities for human rights

Belgian socialist MEP Marie Arena is chairing the European Parliament's sub-committee on human rights. Her biggest challenge? Finding ways to reach objectives that cover an enormous spectrum of issues - from climate to child protection.

News in Brief

  1. EU Scream podcast wins media award
  2. Sturgeon will set out Scottish independence plan next week
  3. Slovenia, Croatia ex-leaders highlight jailed Catalans
  4. Italian court tells Facebook to reopen fascist party's account
  5. EU extends sanctions on Russia until mid-2020
  6. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  7. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  8. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Magazine

Which parties and countries chair the EP committees?

Although the European Parliament tries to keep a geopolitical balance within the committees, the breakdown of the actual chairs of the committees by political party and nationality is uneven - with a clear under-representation of central and eastern EU countries.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU values face scrutiny This WEEK
  2. EU sighs relief after 'decisive' Johnson victory in UK
  3. Huge win for Conservatives in UK election
  4. Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician
  5. Leaders agree 2050 climate neutrality - without Poland
  6. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  7. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  8. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us