Photo: European Union
Today the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade), under the chairmanship of Emil Karanikolov, Bulgarian Minister for the Economy, took key decisions about the future of EU trade relations with key partners. More specifically, they authorised the Commission to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, decided on what EU trade agreements should look like in the future and committed to smooth adoption of the free trade agreements between the EU and Japan and Singapore, as well as the investment protection agreement with Singapore.
Commenting on the first result of the day, the opening of trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, minister Karanikolov said:
“Today's decision to open trade talks with Australia and New Zealand sends a strong signal to both countries that we value our partnerships with them and want to strengthen our existing ties. But it is also a reminder to the world of the EU's commitment to openness, free trade and global cooperation.”
Deciding on the opening of trade negotiations with the two countries was one of the priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency in the area of trade. In the longer run, the two agreements are expected to generate an increase in EU exports to both countries by about a third.
As a second point, ministers agreed on the key principles the Council will follow in relation to trade negotiations from now on.
Thirdly, EU ministers were united in their commitment to work together to solve the issues that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is currently facing.
Ministers also discussed the proposed free trade agreements with Japan and Singapore, as well as an investment protection agreement with Singapore. They stressed the economic and strategic importance of the agreements and encouraged further intensive work towards their signature and conclusion. The aim is for the two FTAs to be concluded in the course of 2019.
Over lunch ministers discussed the recent developments in the EU’s trade relations with the US. They once again confirmed the EU position – also expressed by the leaders at their informal meeting in Sofia last week – that the EU needs to have a permanent exemption from US tariffs on steel and aluminium products, but that once that has been achieved, the bloc is willing to discuss deepening trade ties with the United States. The Council also expressed its full support for the measures taken by the European Commission to protect the EU's interests, in line with WTO rules.
After lunch, minister Karanikolov gave a press conference, in which the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, also took part.
Pictures and videos are available here.
More information about the meeting and the decisions taken is available here.