Reviving the economy

A new trade strategy

Commercial activities, no less than agriculture and industry, have contributed in the past to turn Europe into an economic, but also political power at the world level. Some peoples of the old continent show in their history a real commercial "vocation", such as the Dutch. Trade in ever more globalized markets is considered, in the age of the global economy, both a need and an opportunity for further development. For all these reasons, the European Commission has drawn up a specific strategy in this field, which was presented on 9 November. Reviving the economy. The document drafted by the Executive is called "Trade, Growth and World Affairs". It is aimed at creating in the EU27 a real common trade policy "aimed at reviving Europe’s economy". The proposed strategy would like, in the Commission’s view, to reduce trade barriers, open global markets and obtain fair conditions for European businesses. The overall objective "is to adopt a more pro-active approach to ensure that European citizens too may benefit from the positive effects of trade". Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade, explained the document as follows: "Trade has a real and positive impact on the day to day lives of European citizens by generating jobs, growth and consumer benefits". According to De Gucht, "a new trade strategy will open up markets and link the EU with the main sources and regions of global growth". "My objective – he said – is to ensure that all European businesses can benefit from fair conditions and that our rights be respected in such a way that everyone may benefit from the positive effects of trade". Commitments and hopes. The Barroso Executive aims to give a renewed impetus to economic growth by removing any barriers that still hamper the exchange of goods, investments, raw materials, semi-finished products and services. It is also looking at the problem of employment and aiming at results also on the front of the lowering of prices of consumer products to the benefit of consumers. The Commission has further formulated seven specific commitments to this end. For example it underlines the need to "complete the agenda of negotiations with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and with our main trading partners", such as India and the Common Market of South America (Mercosur). De Gucht believes that "by taking the action I’ve just outlined (improved market access for services and investment, opening up public procurement, better protection of intellectual property, unrestricted supply of raw materials and energy, overcoming regulatory barriers) by 2020, we can expect EU GDP to be more that one percent higher than it would otherwise be". The EU would also like to deepen its trade and investment links with other major trading partners, such as the US, China, Russia and Japan: "The primary focus with these countries will be on tackling non-tariff barriers to trade and investment". Another point: helping European businesses "to access global markets. Where the EU is open, such as in public procurement, we need to ensure European businesses can benefit from the same terms of access to our partner’s markets. Where Europe’s openness is not matched elsewhere – continued Karel De Gucht – I want to redress that balance". Eurobarometer survey. The working document presented in Brussels is complemented by a two further reports: one on "Progress achieved in the global strategy of Europe 2006-2010" and the other on "Trade as motor of prosperity", which describes the contribution that "sustainable, intelligent and inclusive" trade can make to growth and job creation"; it examines "the most important barriers that remain for the trade of goods and services and for investments" (the documents are available online: http://ec.europa.eu/trade/trade-growth-and-jobs/). Almost as if to corroborate the priorities expressed in its own document, which shows a perspective valid for the fifteen years to come, the Commission presented the findings of a specially commissioned survey conducted by Eurobarometer, according to which "two thirds of European citizens consider the EU has derived benefit from world trade" (rather a foregone conclusion). Moreover, "the majority of those interviewed are confident that European products and services can successfully compete on the global market". Products and prices. The Eurobarometer survey (conducted by interviewing 26,000 citizens of the 27 member states between August and September 2010) explains that the proportion of public opinion convinced of the widespread benefits derived from trade is growing. In particular the citizens of Cyprus, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, Malta and, to a lesser degree, those of the UK, Hungary, Germany and other nationalities believe in the value of international trade The main advantages deriving from trade on a large scale are, in the view of citizens, a greater choice of consumer products and the chance to obtain a lowering of prices.

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