The coronavirus crisis has turned the world upside down. Issues such as globalisation and the extension of value chains are now being questioned. The world's governments face the challenge of making economic and political reforms for the world that is coming after the pandemic. It is time to re-prioritize and identify the issues that will help society emerge from an unprecedented economic and health crisis. The European Union is clear on this, we must rely on innovative technology and international trade as levers to ensure change. To discuss all these issues, the representation of the European Commission in Spain has organized an individual conference this Tuesday in which Xiana Méndez, Secretary of State for Trade of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Matthias Jorgensem, Head of Unit for Latin America of the Commission's Trade, and Jochen Müller, Deputy Director of the European Commission's representation in Spain, participated.
"We are facing an unprecedented crisis in which the first victims have been international trade and investment. The pandemic has come at a time when Spanish exports have grown enormously," said Xiana Méndez, who called for structural reforms and has committed herself to strengthening trade mechanisms to help the Spanish and European economy out of the doldrums. "We are preparing important agreements, such as the Mercosur agreement," she explained. Spain has a lot at stake in this battle, as 36% of the GDP comes from goods and services.
The main problem with trade reforms around the world is the weakness of multilateralism. "The big players, such as the United States and China, do not bow to international agreements and that threatens multilateralism. Russia and Turkey in the European neighbourhood are also a challenge for the EU," Matthias Jorgensen said. Despite this, the EU has to make a commitment to placing its products on the external market. To this end, it is reviewing its foreign policy and has launched a public consultation to allow citizens to participate. It will be open until 15 September. "Trade policy must contribute to solving the great challenges of society that we have and the generational challenges," said Mr Jorgensen.
In addition to the reform of EU trade rules, Jorgensen has called for a comprehensive reform of all trade rules worldwide. "We cannot continue with the WTO (World Trade Organization) rules that were designed in the late 1980s. At that time there were not even computers," he stressed. He called for great care to be taken in discriminating against European products compared to those from outside the EU and asked that, if the energy transition is the model for growth, companies should be prevented from importing polluting products from other parts of the world with less demanding environmental rules.
Xiana Méndez pointed out that thanks to the trade agreement reached between the EU and Vietnam, working conditions for employees are improving. "The government has reviewed all the legislation and is improving and modernising it," she explained. In Chile's case, the signing of a trade agreement with the EU has forced the country to commit itself to promoting the role of women in international trade.
Although there are still many challenges ahead, the European Union's goal is for exports and imports to have an impact beyond the goods themselves. "When we sell products abroad we are also exporting sustainability and good practices," concluded Xiana Mendez.