Trade ministers from the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union (EU) have discussed the bloc’s trade policy priorities, and partnerships with the African Union (AU) and the US.
EU countries should have strategic autonomy to respond to global economic threats and challenges, while respecting the environmental sustainability goals of the Union, Franck Riester, French Minister delegate for foreign trade and economic attractiveness, said during the meeting held in Marseille.
The Ministers’ first session of talks concerned the French priority during its presidency of the bloc to enhance trade relations between the AU and the EU. This means increased investment and broader trade arrangements, Riester explained.
For Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commissioner for Trade, the upcoming summit between the two continental unions must result in a “new deal” for digital transformation in African economies and free-trade areas.
“African countries are key partners for the EU,” he added.
The Ministers’ second session of talks focused on transatlantic trade relations, and preparation for the upcoming meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council in France in May.
Ministers discussed the EU-US partnership, and how both partners should focus on resolving “common vulnerabilities”, Riester said.
Multilateral trade issues “must be overcome”, Riester and Dombrovskis said, via dialogue to ensure fair competition, while also considering environmental sustainability goals.
During the meeting, the Ministers discussed the EU’s strategy for multilateral trade issues with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
They also discussed an urgent reform of the WTO to adapt to the pandemic, and ensure fair competition in global trade.
Dombrovskis said increased cooperation is required with countries in need of vaccines.
“To address this challenge we need a holistic approach to trade and investment,” he added.