The Institute for Politics and Society in cooperation with The Prague House organized a debate on the future of Global Free Trade from the Transatlantic perspective, on the 3rd of March 2020 in Brussels. The main speakers and contributors to the debate were Dita Charanzová, Vice-President of the European Parliament, Peter Chase, Senior Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of United States, Markus J. Beyrer, Director General of BusinessEurope, and Jan Macháček, Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Politics and Society, who took on the role of the moderator.
The European Union has to cover complicated issues relating to international trade. On the one hand, the EU has to deal with a new range of trade agreements with the UK due to the upcoming Brexit. On the other hand, the EU has to address new approaches to the US offensive political trade strategy. Lastly, the EU has to decide its strategic position in the US-China geopolitical and technological competition.
The debate was started with a list of the priorities of the EU. Dita Charanzová pointed out the unexpected topic of the Brexit and the need for the EU to manage high expectation trade policy agreements on a tight period of time. The Vice-President of the European Parliament also presented China trade partner agreements as a key priority for the European Union. She continued by mentioning the EU’s frozen trade agreement with the US (TTIP) and elucidated the difficult situation, as the US trade strategy has totally shifted over the past few years. At the same time, the US is paralyzing the WTO by taking out the sovereign power of the trade policies watchdog organization.
Moreover, she emphasized the new engagement of citizens in Transatlantic trade agreements, as well as the response of the EU in evolving the free trade agreements into good free trade, comprehensive, and green agreements.
Following the previous EU concern priorities, Markus J. Beyrer agreed with the point of view of Dita Charanzová and continued by addressing the WTO’s dysfunctional situation. Therefore, he advocated the need to reform and modernize the trade organization with transparent, practical and enforceable global trading rules in order to respond to new sectors challenges. He highlighted the main issue of US sanctions towards the EU:
- to avoid negative consequences
- trade sanctions need to be dealt with, with the consultancy of allies
Indeed, the EU and the US are each other’s biggest trade partners, thus the US needs to equally deliberate with the EU on common trade challenges. With this in mind, the possibility to force competitor China to upgrade its trade strategy, to obey the rules of the WTO, may be possible.
Peter Chase shared his knowledge on the US administration to explain the political approach of Transatlantic trade agreements. Trump administration focuses on unfair competition by comparing US workers to workers in developing countries. Therefore, US administration uses its power to become a disruptive stakeholder on the Transatlantic trade field. For this purpose, US administration deals with trade agreements exclusively one way. The US uses the same strategy towards the WTO; as the rules are not equally applied to all the members states, especially for the former developing countries such as China. US administration believes it can force China to change its unfair trade strategy, thanks to painful trade agreements. The EU is suffering from the consequences of the US methodology in this geopolitical trade competition. In order to resolve this situation, Peter Chase pointed out the role of the EU to lead Transatlantic trade agreements with a diplomatic management.
Jan Macháček chose to revisit the Brexit issue for the EU. Indeed, he emphasized the idea that the UK disconnection with the EU is not about conservative wants. In actuality, Brexit is mainly linked to topics such as Artificial Intelligence or a high deficit budget. The UK is free to obey its own rules by leaving the EU. Later, following the discussion about the US, he agreed that the new US competition strategy is about chaos and threats and not about a protectionist approach. He pointed out that the US president and its administration are eventually predictable, especially in the political presidency term. He mentioned the vulnerability and weaker position that come with the behaviour of the US, but believes that the motivations to conclude the agreements are high in the priorities of the US administration.