Parliament’s trade legislation: A look back and moving forward

As we approach the end of this Parliament’s mandate, Iuliu Winkler takes a look back at the past five years, while also considering the remaining couple of months of this legislature under the Romanian Council Presidency.

The trade contingent of our legislative work has been constructed under the aegis of the “Trade for All” strategy presented by DG Trade early in the Commission’s mandate.

This has corresponded with my own, and my political group’s vision of focusing on open and fair trade and advancing negotiations with global partners.

We believe in the added value of solid trade relations and were glad to see important agreements such as those with Canada and Japan finalised.

Likewise, we saluted the good complementarity between multilateral efforts to consolidate the rules-based trading system, and a consistent attitude on promoting the bilateral agenda.

A key focus was on achieving a level playing field in trade and investment relations.

Efforts to protect European industry, businesses and citizens from unfair trade practices include the agreements on the Investment Court System, Trade Defence Instruments, the Anti-Dumping Methodology and the FDI Screening Mechanism.

With all these good results in mind, there is still some work to be done. Advancing or even finalising negotiations on agreements with MERCOSUR countries, Mexico, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Singapore remains a priority.

Council will also have an important role here. The Romanian Presidency, which comes at a rather challenging time for the EU, with many important points on its ‘to-do’ list, can thus have a strong contribution in this respect.

From our initial contacts with the Romanian Government, we sense a pragmatic and realist approach in setting out the main priorities on the trade agenda.

In the current geopolitical context, ensuring a consistent approach towards the Eastern Neighbourhood remains vital. Eastern Partnership countries shall therefore receive a special focus.

The efficient implementation of DCFTAs already in place is vital.

Furthermore, the Presidency should provide certainty regarding post-Brexit trade relations with the UK.

Concerning transatlantic relations, the Romanian Presidency has ambitions to play a mediating role, advancing the agenda put forward on the EU-USA Joint Statement of 25 July 2018; this includes talks on trade liberalisation in industrial goods and voluntary cooperation on regulatory frameworks in this area, without affecting EU standards.

On the multilateral front, safeguarding the multilateral trading system and reforming the WTO remains a cornerstone element.

Romania will promote the Multilateral Investment Court negotiations, to tackle criticisms brought against the ISDS system, pushing for transparency and accountability.

Alongside all these objectives, the most important priority, in my opinion, should be the continuation of efforts towards the negotiations, conclusion and implementation of ambitious FTAs.

Particularly, as INTA Vice-Chair and on behalf of the EPP Group, I can emphasise that there is an expectancy to deliver on the negotiations with Vietnam and Singapore.

The Presidency of the Council should complement our efforts to achieve a signature of the two agreements under the current legislature.

I am convinced that the EPP Group in INTA will certainly maintain a cooperative stance with the EU Presidency as long as the common interests will prevail.

I overall believe that we can leave behind a strong and positive legacy for the next INTA committee that will be formed after the European Parliament elections.

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