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Main results of the video conference of trade ministers

  • Council of the EU

Main results

Trade relations with the United States

Ministers took stock of the US elections and underlined the importance of the trans-Atlantic relations to deal with the challenges of our time, especially in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Despite some ongoing tensions in bilateral trade relations, transatlantic cooperation is and will continue to be crucial.

Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy

We remain fully committed to advancing a positive trade agenda with the US, which will continue to be an indispensable partner to face challenges such as COVID-19, crisis of the multilateral trading system, climate change and international trade and technology issues. We need to work together on resolving outstanding bilateral disputes.

Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy

The Commission reported during the video conference on the state of play of the EU steel safeguard measures.

Trade Policy Review and outlook for WTO

Ministers held a discussion on the Trade Policy Review in the context of the consultation process launched by the European Commission in June about the EU’s future trade and investment policy. The objective of this consultation, which will run until 15 November, is to see how trade policy can help with the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and support the green and digital transitions to a stronger and more resilient EU. The outcome of the ongoing consultation will feed into a Commission Communication likely to set the direction for EU trade and investment policy for the next five years, to be issued most likely not before January 2021. The Commission offered an update on the state of play of the process.

Ministers paid special attention to the World Trade Organization reform. With the election of the new Director General still open, the Commission set out its vision and road map for WTO reform. According to the Commission, substantive progress could be reached at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) around some issues such as fisheries subsidies, the Joint Statement Initiatives and the more recent initiatives including on trade and health and trade and environment. Several ministers called upon the European Commission to include gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in the Trade Policy Review that will lead to a revised EU strategy.

We have to keep on working for a comprehensive reform of the WTO system, which is facing serious challenges that compromise its ability to function effectively, including its Appellate Body.

Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy

Trade relations with China

Ministers held a discussion on the EU’s trade relations with China with particular focus on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) that addresses the current asymmetries in market access. The Commission reported on the current state of the negotiations and of the contacts around market access and sustainable development.

Ministers underlined the need to continue advancing the discussions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with the aim of concluding negotiations in 2020 and achieving an open, fair and transparent business environment for EU investors in China.

This discussion followed the European Council of 1 and 2 October 2020, where EU leaders in their conclusions stressed the need to rebalance the economic relationship and achieve reciprocity. They also recalled that the goal is to finalise negotiations on the CAI by the end of the year. This agreement will contribute to a level playing field and establish meaningful commitments on sustainable development. The European Council also called on China to address market access barriers, to deal with overcapacity and to engage in negotiations on industrial subsidies at the World Trade Organization.

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