Today, I am in Paris to take part in the OECD Ministerial Council meeting, which this year carries the headline “Making globalisation work “. The goal of the meeting is to explore policies that can result in more inclusive globalisation, as well as respond to concerns that globalisation has not benefitted everyone equally. The EU attaches great importance to these issues, as pointed out in the recently published reflection paper on harnessing globalisation, and I am looking forward to discussing concerns and solutions in Paris.
One should keep in mind that many of the developments often attributed to globalisation – such as job losses in the industrial sector – very often have other irreversible causes, such as automatisation and robotisation technology. The answer to many such challenges faced by our societies can be found on the national level, such as local training and education schemes, and effective social policies. However, trade and investment policies at the EU level can also play an important role. Through our EU trade strategy – “Trade for all” – we pursue a fair and effective trade and investment policy based on our values. History has taught us that closing our borders to trade and reducing cross-border investment can have disastrous outcomes. We want to protect citizens, but we do not want to be protectionist.
Several elements are especially important here. For instance, we need to ensure the highest possible level of inclusiveness and transparency in our trade and investment negotiations. This includes wide public consultations on new policy initiatives, dialogue and engagement with civil society, and publication of EU negotiation texts and proposals. The times when trade negotiations could be concluded without public scrutiny are over.
Also, we need to promote common solutions to global problems. This afternoon we will have a ministerial meeting to discuss the preparations for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial in Buenos Aires, where 164 countries will gather in December. Working together with our partners within the WTO, we aim for a level international playing field in order to ensure fairness and effectiveness. That includes the enforcement of WTO rules, and improving the negotiating function of the organisation, and thus it is very important to move the multilateral agenda forward. We need to fill the gaps in a global rulebook that remains far from complete. In Paris, I will urge WTO members to make the December ministerial a step forward in this regard.
In parallel, from the EU side, we aim to conclude trade agreements that can help us strengthen governance on issues like labour conditions, human rights, and product safety. It is also crucial for the EU to maintain our existing high standards in fields like those.
Furthermore, trade policy is also connected to sustainable development and efforts to combat climate change. Trade policy can cover measures to spur the transition to a greener economy. The fight against climate change can only succeed if we join our efforts, which is why the developments of the past week – with the U.S. deciding to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement – are so disappointing. All the more important, then, for other actors to work together even more effectively than before. From the EU side, we will stand by our commitment to the Paris Agreement and work for the full implementation of it. In the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council, I am taking the opportunity to meet trade ministers of several members of the OECD for bilateral talks, such as Argentina, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S., and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo.
The point I will stress here in Paris is that from a European perspective, trade and investment is not a zero-sum game with winners and losers. Trade and investment, through deeper international cooperation, is a win-win.
Compliments of Cecilia Malmström’s blog, European Commission