On 27 May 2019, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, took part in the European Union (EU) Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) in Brussels, Belgium. The Council addressed international trade issues of current importance with the focus on the trade relations between the EU and the US and the process of the WTO reform.
At the meeting, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica underlined that the work on the modernisation of the World Trade Organisation should continue, and she indicated that currently one of the key tasks was also to involve other WTO member states in the reform processes. The first thing to do is to throw a lifeline to WTO dispute settlement mechanism and allow it to maintain its functionality.
The ministers approved the EU’s position on and adopted a mandate for plurilateral negotiations between WTO members on electronic commerce aimed at facilitating a broader involvement of companies in e-commerce and promoting consumers’ trust in on-line trade environment. The Parliamentary Secretary welcomed the launch of negotiations on e-commerce, adding that they should be constructive and focused on tackling protectionism in digital trade.
As concerns the trade relations between the EU and the US, Latvia stands up for finding common grounds to address the burning issues in trade. The possible imposition by the US of trade-restrictive measures in the automotive and aviation sectors exert additional undesirable pressure on the EU-US trade relations; therefore, the most pragmatic solutions possible should be sought. The US is an important export market for Latvia, amounting to EUR 456 million in 2018. It is important both as the destination for direct exports and to those Latvian manufacturers who are part of global supply chains or supply components for finished products to be exported to the US, including in the automotive industry.
“Despite the current situation, the EU still needs to demonstrate its readiness to start trade negotiations with the U.S., preparations for which have been completed on the EU’s part. All in all, we need to stay united and be crystal-clear that we are ready to defend our interests,” Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica said.
In a discussion on recent developments concerning the EU’s trade policy, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström provided an insight into the progress with EU bilateral trade negotiations. Latvia supports the European Commission’s efforts in the trade talks currently underway with Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Indonesia, and Mercosur, as well as welcoming the agreements achieved, including those with Mexico and Vietnam.
With regard to the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement and the Investment Protection Agreement, the Parliamentary Secretary expressed hope that the agreements would soon be signed and take effect. Overall, it is important for the EU, including Latvia, that new export markets open up and trade conditions are improved with the aim of making trade easier and more sustainable, whilst offering new export opportunities for our companies.
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