Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

Trade nominee attacks Chinese currency and carbon tax idea

With MEPs on the lookout for overly vague responses during the ongoing European Parliamentary hearings, trade commissioner-designate Karel De Gucht was crystal clear on two matters on Tuesday (12 January).

The Belgian politician candidly told euro deputies that he is not in favour of an EU border carbon tax, adding that he saw an undervalued Chinese currency as a "major problem" for the European Union.

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  • Mr De Gucht did not shy away from expressing his opinions (Photo: European Parliament)

France has led European calls for an EU border tax on products manufactured in external countries with weaker environmental standards, but Mr De Gucht said the measure risked triggering an international trade war.

"In terms of border adjustments, I'm against it," said the Liberal politician in response to a question.

"I don't see that as the right approach, it's one that will lead to lots of practical problems," continued the former foreign minister and current European commissioner for development and humanitarian aid.

"We've seen it in the past. The big risk is that it will also lead to an escalating trade war on a global level," he said.

While the blunt statements may disappoint some who favour the proposed border tax, pro-environment MEPs are likely to be buoyed by Mr De Gucht's strong support for an abolishment of tariffs on environmental goods such as wind turbines and solar panels.

Yuan threat

Turning his attention to China, Mr De Gucht reiterated the European line that the Asian powerhouse should revalue its currency to ease global trade imbalances.

Fresh export data for 2009 released by Chinese customs authorities on Sunday suggest the country is set to strip Germany of its leading exporter title in terms of gross volume.

With the yuan essentially pegged to the dollar for more than a year, despite the US currency's protracted slide, European manufacturers have increasingly pointed to their diminishing price competitiveness.

But China has shrugged off repeated calls by European policy makers to allow the yuan to rise, saying the currency's stability is in everybody's best interest.

The Chinese administration "must show its responsibility by being able to address thorny questions such as currency misalignment," Mr De Gucht told the hearing, adding that European antidumping duties against Chinese firms were only "a very partial solution" to ongoing problem.

Semeta

In a nearby room to the trade discussion, Lithuanian commissioner-desiginate Algirdas Semeta also fielded questions from MEPs on Tuesday morning.

Currently serving as the commission's budgetary chief, the centre-right politician is hoping to take over in a beefed up portfolio responsible for taxation and customs union, audit and anti-fraud.

"It will be an essentially new economic portfolio of especially high responsibility," Mr Semeta said before the hearing. He stressed to MEPs the importance of pushing through new rules on energy taxation within the EU, amongst other issues.

"The energy taxation directive will be one of my first priorities in my future job," Semeta said. "I think in the future if we would move forward with green taxation it would allow us to decrease taxation on labour."

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