Fabian Demicoli

Europe, Trade And The Wider World

 Vincent Farrugia Director General of GRTU and EESC Employers Group Bureau Member participated last week in the high powered Trade related Seminar on Europe, Trade and the wider world held at Clifford Chance, London. Keynote speakers in the Seminar were Profs. Stephen Woolcock – Director Entertainment Trade Policy Unit, London School of Economics, Oliver Wieck – Director External Relations, Federation of German Industries (DBI), Phillipe de Buek – Director General BUSINESS – EUROPE, Arnaldo Abruzzini – Secretary General of EUROCHAMBRES and Peter Thompson – Director Development and Economic Planning, EU Commission DG Trade and top keynote presentation on behalf of the EU Commission by Ignacio Garcia Bercero – Director Sustainable Development & DG Trade.

Interventions on behalf of the EESC came away from others like Henry Malousse – President of the Employers Group, Jonathan Peel – President WTO and International Trade Permanent Study Group and Brenda King, Eva Paarendson and Stephen Boyle.

Vincent Farrugia spoke on the effect of the impositions by the EU of Current Trade defense instruments: "The EU have the responsibility to ensure through these instruments that appropriate measures are taken against those infringing the rules of fair trade. However, Europe pays a high price for the anti-dumping, countervailing and safeguard measures imposed by DG Trade. Importers, retailers and consumers suffer heavily from costly and unpredictable trade defense actions. A prime example occurred in 2005 when 80 million Chinese shirts, trousers and other textiles were blocked at customs following the sudden imposition of import quotas months after the goods had been ordered. The situation was repeated last year with the imposition of a hefty 75% tariff on imported ceramics when construction contractors order and quote on major projects years ahead of actual deliveries. European retailers and wholesalers have a right to expect the EU to take all possible care to avoid any collateral damage when imposing trade defense measures.

Much more needs to be done to ensure that this collateral damage is avoided in implementing a policy which, to say the least contradicts the EU's strong commitment to free trade and support of this trade initiatives of enterprise in the developing world. Predictably and legal certainty are particularly important for economic operators, especially for SME'S and companies which specialize in a narrow product range. The commerce sector, is by far the largest employer in Europe, must be able to plan ahead on imports without the threat of unforeseen tariff intervention between placing of an order and the arrival of the merchandise at European Borders.

The commerce sector generates 11% annual EU GDP and this contribution must be fully reflected in EU trade policy decisions. The same considerations must also be given to Europe's 500 million consumers' interest in lower prices, product availability and choice must be of primary importance to EU legislations.

Vincent Farrugia appealed to the Commission to:

  • Reduce negative practical effects on EU importers
  • Enable traders to plan ahead – make measures more predictable
  • Reflect and respect consumers' and traders' needs throughout the adopted enforcement procedures
  • De-politicize anti-dumping and enhance confidence in investigation methodology
  • Implement enhanced transparency throughout the investigation process

Vincent Farrugia also spoke about the importance of highlighting the services sector in all bilateral trade agreements as most after the new emphasis is only on the dismantling of market access barriers for the import and export of goods and not so much of services. As stated in the Monti report on the EU Internal Market, the services sector delivers more than two thirds of EU Employment and GDP and the service sector is the only sector with a positive net contribution to job creation in the EU. The service sector is actually the economic sector where the EU has its strongest comparative advantage.

It is essential for maintaining growth and employment in the EU that priority is given to liberalizing trade in services together with associated areas such as intellectual property rights and Government procurement.

Vincent Farrugia concluded by saying that GRTU Malta's National Organization with the largest and widest cross-section of traders and retailers and SME's in services as members strongly highlights and emphasizes these main key priorities:

  • Free trade
  • Legal certainty
  • Transparency
  • Predictability
  • Competitiveness
  • Consumers
  • Less Red Tape

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