Multilateralism supporting sustainable trade


Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow parliamentarians,

We are gathering here in the frame of the G-20 Parliamentary Forum for the first time. It is great to see so many parliamentarians from all corners of the globe here today, which serves as a timely reminder of the importance of the parliamentary dimension in G-20 affairs

On behalf of the European Parliament, I would like to express my gratitude to our partner, the IPU, as well as to the National Congress of Argentina for facilitating this event to take place for the first time ever.


The topic of our panel “Multilateralism supporting sustainable trade” is very timely as we are living in times in which multilateralism itself is at stake.


As Vice-Chairman of the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament, I would like to share with you some reflections, on three topics, starting with the role of parliamentary scrutiny in enhancing the democratic legitimacy of trade agreements. Secondly, on the new generation of 21st century trade agreements, and thirdly, on the modernisation of the WTO.

 We live in a new world of trade. We have seen that the public opinion is increasingly focusing on trade agreements, given how they have evolved in recent years and how issues such as sustainable development concerns are now part of them.  The public wants to know more about what is being decided and by whom and that extends to decisions taken in the G-20. Therefore, this conference is an important step in the right direction. Because governments are subjects of democratic control. Parliamentary scrutiny of government policies is essential.

Parliamentarians’ role is not simply limited to ratifying trade agreements once they are concluded, but is much more far reaching.  We act as a vital link between citizens and decision makers on the one hand, conveying the views of our electorates to those charged with negotiating deals, and on the other hand by holding our governments to account and ensuring our concerns and views are heard and taken into consideration.

As a member of the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament, it is my firm belief that the democratic legitimacy of trade agreements can only be enhanced by greater parliamentary scrutiny.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As for the EU, where I come from, trade is not an end in itself but rather a means to an end.  Trade has the ability to create growth and employment. But in order to ensure that the benefits of trade are shared within and amongst nations, accompanying measures are necessary.  This is also vital in order to ensure that there is public trust in trade opening, something we as democratically elected politicians are very sensitive to. Trade operates within a wider institutional setting and is linked to many other policy areas. This implies to reach out and work with other international bodies.

It seems commonly accepted and proved right by scientific evidence that trade and investment generate growth. However, the inclusiveness of growth generated by trade depends on a variety of accompanying measures such as education policy to be understood in a broad sense, ranging from literacy rates, to higher education, professional skills and life-long learning, and infrastructure. In order to climb up the global value chain and enable a country to generate more qualified and better paid jobs on its own territory, people need to have access to on-going education and professional training.

International trade not only plays a decisive role in economic development and cooperation between countries in the globalised economy, but also has a fundamental influence on peace, socially and ecologically sustainable growth, employment, the eradication of poverty and food insecurity, human rights and the fight against climate change.

Therefore, I think the Argentine G-20 Presidency has set the right priorities: The future of work, Infrastructure for Development and a sustainable food future.

Dear Colleagues,

Being internationally competitive depends strongly on successfully shaping automation and digitalisation in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. New technologies will transform the nature of our economies, societies and international trade in general.  The opportunities and challenges that globalisation entails should be met with a trade policy that favours open and fair trade with transparent rules and a strong multilateral system especially within the WTO.

We cannot speak about sustainable trade and multilateralism without mentioning the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change. We need to harmonise our trade policy with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. Sustainability should become an overarching principle for all trade agreements including through sustainable development chapters in trade agreements.

We have the responsibility to ensure a fair and balanced distribution of the benefits, and also of the costs of global trade. We need a modernisation of the WTO. The European Union has presented, at the end of September, in Geneva, its proposals for WTO reform. I hope that we will find as many partners as possible within the G20, as only through the modernisation of the WTO will we be able to provide answers to the worries of our citizens throughout the globe. Our citizens are losing trust in trade and in globalisation; we hence need to reenergise and bring transparency into discussions on the effective implementation of agreements in order to gain back the trust of citizens.

Protectionism is not a solution, and trade wars have no winners, only losers. Only by working together in G20 and other global fora, can we advance towards a solid, balanced, sustainable, and inclusive growth, facilitating job creation and fostering the trust of the youth in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When others want to destroy what has been achieved after two terrible world wars in order to allow for a life in peace then it is time to fight back. It is vitally important to preserve the multilateral world order, as any backsliding would be damaging and would be detrimental to the future of the global society. Therefore, this conference in the margin of the G-20 is so important.

I thank you for your attention!