On trade, and in light of President Trump’s attacks on trade multilateralism, the Council’s consensus on ‘preserving and deepening the rules-based multilateral system’ is to be applauded. The WTO system clearly needs to be strengthened and reformed in order to reinvigorate multilateral trade negotiations, rather than destabilising them. Multilateralism is an important part of a global progressive agenda. The Council’s call for a reform of the WTO as an institution is hence a step into the right direction giving a clear sign that the EU resists protectionist initiatives coming from Washington. While protectionism is clearly not the answer, we must ensure that global trade and investment benefit the many and not the few, that it promotes development, reduces global poverty and raises living standards.
The Council’s call for a legislative proposal on the screening of foreign direct investments to be adopted as soon as possible is a good signal. Such a framework is not considered as a form of protectionism, but an instrument to ensure a fair global trade system that provides a level playing field and does not allow social and environmental dumping. In the current situation, China is exploiting the fact that the European market is open to Chinese goods and investments, while European firms face more and more limitations on exports and investments towards China. To promote EU-China trade relations, the progressive response should not aim at punishing China, but at building fair and just relations within the existing multilateral system. The progressive duty is to re-regulate globalised capitalism so that globalisation serves democracy rather than undermining it.