Flemish MEP on EU trade: ‘A real disappointment’
‘Under the previous Commission a number of trade deals were closed. Under the Von der Leyen-Commission -who says the EU wants to be a global actor- there are hardly any deals. Only one has been ratified so far’, says Geert Bourgeois, member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the EP, and former regional leader of Flanders.
‘If you want to be a global actor, trade comes first. It’s the first instrument’, says Bourgeois. ‘It’s very difficult now in the EP. Before, there was an open mind towards trade agreements. Today the parliament only wants trade deals with countries that have the same standards, concerning environment, labour relations, democracy ..'
'For me and others, it should be the other way around: trade first.’
‘The ILO (international labour organisation) also sees it this way: making progress step by step, like Vietnam does. We have the same goal, but if you first impose a number of conditions, nothing will happen. And, by the way, it’s not as if nothing’s wrong in the EU.’
‘I agree with those conditions, but trade should come first. Now the priority goes to protection: against unfair subsidies for foreign companies, against China, on public procurement, on environment and climate.’ The trade committee of the EP on Thursday (14 July) approved a resolution to have TSD-chapters in all trade deals (trade and sustainable development).
‘Look at the concept of strategic autonomy. There’s a real risk of protectionism. France wants to close the EU market; I’m in favour of an ‘open’ strategic autonomy. Not trying to produce everything ourselves, but diversifying our supply chains. Today we’re going to spend fortunes to make computer chips ourselves, instead of collaborating with what exists already.’
‘Not ratifying the trade deals with Canada, Columbia, Ecuador, Mercosur, .. is a loss of prosperity. Trade creates an enormous amount of prosperity: in the EU 38 million jobs, where ten years before it was only 27 million. In Flanders one in three jobs are related to trade, in the EU 1 in 7. Trade brings stability worldwide. Are we now going to leave the field open for China? I’m disappointed in the EU, and in Belgium in Brussels and Wallonia, that block the ratification of existing trade deals’, says Bourgeois, who was the regional leader of Flanders before 2019.
Bourgeois, who’s the EP rapporteur on the trade and investment negotiations with India, is hopeful on this one. The negotiations restarted last year after years of blocking. ‘I think India has a lot to win. And I see they want to make progress fast.’
‘I rely on the Czech republic, that has the EU presidency now, and on the next presidency, of Sweden, always a defender of trade. They are allies. Like me, they are annoyed with the present standstill. Unlike the past presidency of France.’
‘I hope we’ll have more agreements in this second period.’
Trade is a very important aspect of international relations, and the EU is a very important trading partner. Belga asked two Flemish MEP’s, members of the International Trade committee, how they see the EU policies concerning trade. On the left wing side, Kathleen Van Brempt (Vooruit, social democrat), on the right wing side, Geert Bourgeois (N-VA, conservative).