Tuesday

20th Oct 2020

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.

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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.
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