Trade is an Irish Presidency priority: we are committed to building momentum in the EU’s trade negotiations with other countries. President Barroso's letter to EU leaders on February 4th pointed out in a that “grasping the opportunities afforded by external sources of growth will be critical for the future dynamism and sustainability of our economy”. As Presidency, Ireland will go the extra mile on a broad trade agenda that makes a real difference to job creators, to employees, and to citizens.
How is the Presidency driving this?
This week’s General Affairs Council, chaired by Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste/Irish Deputy Prime Minister) was the first high-level opportunity under the Irish Presidency to address the issue of international trade, in preparation for discussions at the European Council on 7/8 February. In his press conference following the meeting, the Tánaiste noted a determination among member states to “energetically pursue trade opportunities”.
There will be many more such opportunities. There will be further General Affairs Council discussions, building on extensive work at official level. And the Minister for Jobs, Employment and Innovation, Mr. Richard Bruton, will host an informal meeting of EU Trade Ministers on 17/18 April in Dublin to discuss how to advance free trade agreements with the EU’s strategic partners. (This will be followed by an EU-US Business Roundtable).
Why does the Irish Presidency attach such importance to trade?
- First, trade is fundamental to our Presidency priorities of stability, jobs and growth. Just as Ireland has made trade a cornerstone of its own recovery programme (our exports are growing across all sectors, and diversifying their reach into new markets), Europe as a whole must do so too.
- The EU needs thriving trade in goods, services and investment, to create new opportunities for enterprise and generate more jobs and growth.
- The EU has the entrepreneurs, the creativity, the technologies, the ambition – but we need new market access opportunities, including in rapidly growing markets. The EU and each of its member states stand to benefit hugely from increased trade. The European Commission’s figures speak for themselves:
- An ambitious trade agenda in the medium term can lead to an overall increase of 2% in growth and the creation of over 2 million new jobs across the EU (1% of the EU’s total workforce), at a time when there are 26 million unemployed across the EU.
- If we were to complete all our current free trade talks tomorrow, we'd be adding 2.2% to the EU’s GDP, or €275 billion. This is more than the individual GDPs of many member states including Ireland.
- In the future, 90% of world growth will be generated outside the EU.
- Developing and emerging countries are likely to account for nearly 60% of world GDP by 2030
- Less than a quarter of EU trade was covered by Free Trade Agreements before 2006. Concluding all on-going negotiations would bring this figure up to half of the EU’s trade.
The Presidency’s aims on trade
The EU and the US, two of the world’s largest trading blocs, already have very strong trade and investment ties. But we must go further, to maximise the potential of the transatlantic market place. As the new administration in the US sets its course, the Irish Presidency will place a special focus on the EU-US trade relationship. We will take forward the forthcoming recommendations of the High Level Group on Jobs and Growth, including working towards a new generation comprehensive EU-US Free Trade and Investment Agreement. The successful conclusion of an FTA would open new opportunities for EU exporters, boosting job creation and competitiveness.
The completion of a trade agreement with Canada and of the final elements of that with Singapore will also be important milestones. The Irish Presidency will seek to advance FTA negotiations with Japan, India and other strategic partners, and to take forward the EU-China relationship with a focus on investment protection and market access. And we aim to strengthen relationships with Eastern and Southern neighbours to improve the flow of trade and investment and support their economic and social development.
The concrete progress we aim to make on the EU’s trade agenda will be one of the Irish Presidency’s key legacies – stability, jobs and growth in action, delivering results for the EU’s citizens.
Read more about the Irish Presidency’s approach to trade in the report of the Chairperson of the Trade Policy Committee to Coreper: Irish Presidency's Approach to Trade
You can also read the Commission paper, "Trade: a key source of growth and jobs for the EU: The Commission contribution to the European Council of 7-8 February 2013" on our European Council event page.