The European Parliament is preparing a report on trade policy post COVID-19. The drafting is in the hands of the Belgian S&D group member Kathleen van Brempt and will help define the parliament’s positioning in several trade policy files in the coming months.
A first version of the report is now circulating – it covers a wide range of topic areas in which the legislature’s positions are already well-known. The text will be enriched by further amendments, but overall the content is not particularly divisive among international trade committee members.
Among others the draft report focuses on digital trade post COVID-19. It “calls on the Commission to come up with a digital trade strategy to increase the market access of European businesses and protect EU citizens’ rights under the GDPR.”
On supply chain resilience, a key topic in the pandemic era and at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions, the report “calls for incentives for EU businesses to shorten or adjust their supply chains where it is beneficial to do so.”
Vaccine exports – EU prepares further restrictions on Wednesday
The report lingers on trade and health issues. It “emphasises, in this connection, the detrimental effects of unilateral measures such as export restrictions and prohibitions and the lack of transparency on global stocks and the subsequent price speculation on scarce essential goods, not least for low and middle income countries”.
The report supports the adoption of the current Ottawa-Group led “WTO trade and health initiative by the end of 2021 and for greater transparency on the supply and production of essential medical products and services”.
MEPs also support “a constructive dialogue about a temporary waiver of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in order to ensure that countries do not face retaliation over COVID-19 related patent infringements during the pandemic.”
The EU is expected to tighten its current export restrictions for vaccines even further: companies that fulfil their contractual obligations under their advance purchase agreements might see their exports restricted if they backload their deliveries to the end of a quarter – the aim being to make sure the EU is prioritised.
The MEP report “urges the Commission to engage with producing countries to swiftly eliminate export barriers and to replace the export authorisation mechanism with an export and import notification requirement.”
The current European diplomatic row with Beijing following the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes on Chinese officials the EU considers implicated in severe human rights abuses against members of the Uyghur minority puts the parliament’s position on the planned ratification of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investments into a special light.
Scrutiny meetings planned this week have been suspended. “The file is not expected in the Parliament for some time; our understanding is it may arrive towards the end of 2021. We only expect voting on the potential consent file in mid-2022,” reiterated its rapporteur Iuliu Winkler (EPP).
“Clearly, CAI’s ratification depends on the decision of the EP. CAI is not on the table now; there is still a long road ahead.”
The van Brempt report “stresses that the ratification process of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment can only begin once the EU has the requisite autonomous measures in place, including a ban on products made using forced labour, an upgraded trade defence toolbox and a working sanctions mechanism on human rights; demands that the Commission move forward with the Investment Agreement with Taiwan.”