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EU’s new commerce commissioner pledges extra ‘assertive’ posture

The EU’s new commerce commissioner has in depth expertise of being enlisted to type out messy conditions.

A former Latvian prime minister who steered his nation by a global bailout, Valdis Dombrovskis was confirmed final week because the EU’s substitute commerce chief, after his predecessor Phil Hogan’s shock resignation in August. 

In an interview with the FT, Mr Dombrovskis set out priorities together with revitalising commerce relations with the US by way of a settlement within the Airbus-Boeing dispute. He additionally plans to create new technique of defending European corporations from unfair competitors and to ramp up talks on an funding treaty with China. 

It is the second time that the Latvian has been drafted to take over a fee portfolio mid-mandate. 

The first got here in 2016, when Jonathan Hill, Britain’s EU commissioner, resigned within the wake of the Brexit referendum, and Mr Dombrovskis was tapped by then-commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to imagine duty for Lord Hill’s monetary regulation beat. 

Now Mr Juncker’s successor, Ursula von der Leyen, has requested Mr Dombrovskis to leap on one other horse midstream — Mr Hogan’s mandate nonetheless has greater than 4 years to run.

Latvia’s commissioner since 2014, Mr Dombrovskis is among the longest-standing members of the EU govt department and a disaster veteran. He took over as his nation’s prime minister throughout a monetary meltdown when larger political beasts most popular to stay to the sidelines. Known for his plain talking and love of coverage element, he started his premiership in 2009 by telling his compatriots: “We are facing national bankruptcy. It’s going to be tough.”

Now he takes over the EU’s prime commerce job throughout a disaster of confidence for the global-trading system. Reliance on prolonged provide chains has been undermined by Covid-19 and the World Trade Organization has confronted a sustained battering from Donald Trump’s commerce wars and Chinese state-backed capitalism. US blocking techniques imply that the WTO at the moment doesn’t actually have a absolutely functioning dispute-settlement system. 

Both Mr Hogan and Mr Dombrovskis have been bastions of assist for financial liberalism throughout the fee — appearing as a bulwark towards extra protectionist tendencies.

But the Latvian is assuming duty for commerce at a time when inside financial sovereignty quite than worldwide financial outreach is the political creed of the second. In the interview, Mr Dombrovskis insisted that the EU’s post-Covid mantra of “open strategic autonomy” was suitable with breaking down obstacles to commerce. 

© Reuters

“The EU remains open for free and fair trade,” Mr Dombrovskis mentioned. “But, at the same time, in a more conflictual international trading environment, we are going to be more assertive in defending our own rights, in defending European companies, in levelling the playing field.” 

Striking that steadiness shall be removed from simple. The coverage means, for instance, that whereas repairing relations with Washington is a precedence, Brussels can be making ready a brand new “anti-coercion tool” that may transcend current trade-defence devices. The concept can be to hit again onerous in case the US, or one other nation, applies punitive tariffs to EU merchandise exterior of WTO procedures. 

The political push in Brussels for a extra highly effective retaliatory weapon may be dated to Mr Trump’s threats towards the EU automobile sector. But it could take the EU into unprecedented authorized territory. In impact, it’s a recognition that the creaking WTO system is not sufficient to guard the bloc’s pursuits. 

“We need to be able to react to situations where third countries are acting outside of the WTO framework,” Mr Dombrovskis mentioned. 

On negotiations with China, Mr Dombrovskis mentioned his precedence can be “substance over deadline”, insisting that Beijing wants to offer extra floor earlier than negotiations may be concluded on an funding treaty. 

A multilateral system to restore, bilateral relations to rebalance and European corporations to reassure. It’s going to be a busy 4 years.

Chart du jour: Covid strikes switch charges

Column chart of Spending during summer transfer windows (€bn) showing Transfer fees in Europe's ‘big five’ football leagues fell due to the pandemic

Things are getting ugly for the attractive recreation because the pandemic hits dwelling. The continent’s soccer golf equipment face a income shortfall of €3.6bn over the subsequent two years because of the pandemic, in line with the European Club Association. Clubs in Europe’s prime 5 leagues in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France spent a mixed €3.3bn on this summer season’s switch window, in line with Transfermarkt, a soccer knowledge web site. This is round €2bn lower than was spent within the equal interval final 12 months. (chart via FT)

News round-up

  • French president Emmanuel Macron and different EU leaders will this week insist on tough enforcement rules for any UK commerce deal. (FT)

  • The EU dangers falling “hostage” to authoritarian member states if it fails to agree on a troublesome system to guard the rule of legislation inside its personal borders, Slovakia’s president Zuzana Caputova has warned. (FT)

  • Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a restricted ceasefire of their battle for management of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. (FT) However, experiences of recent shelling underscored how precarious the truce is. (BBC)

  • Lithuanians headed out to vote on Sunday within the first spherical of parliamentary elections in a contest overshadowed by Covid-19. (DW)

  • Brussels is drawing up a “hit list” of as much as 20 massive web corporations because it seeks to curb their market energy underneath a brand new rule guide. (FT)

Coming up this week

Foreign affairs ministers meet on Monday, adopted by the General Affairs Council on Tuesday. Trilateral negotiations proceed because the European Council and parliament try to land a deal on the main points of the EU’s upcoming seven-year finances.

On Thursday and Friday, EU leaders maintain a summit at which Brexit and the negotiations with the UK are set to function closely. The World Bank and IMF annual conferences are underneath manner all through the week.; @jimbrunsden; @Sam1Fleming

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