Chaired by German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, the virtual meeting was also joined by Valdis Dombrovskis, EU Commissioner for Trade and Executive Vice-President of the European Commission. The videoconference replaced the session of the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade), which, owing to the pandemic, could not be held as a physical meeting in Brussels.
German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier:
We are all feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also true in terms of international trade. If there is a lesson to be drawn from this crisis, it is that we need more, rather than less, trade and open markets. Therefore, we have to work towards greater legal certainty in international trade, particularly for SMEs. This requires a strong, reformed World Trade Organization as well as modern free trade and investment protection agreements. That is why the future of the WTO will be a key focus of today’s discussions. And of course, in the light of the US elections, we will discuss the EU's trade relations with the US.
The debate addressed current issues of European trade policy. The following items were on the agenda:
- Shaping EU-US trade relations, particularly in the light of the US elections held on 3 November 2020, with a view to continuing the push for a positive trade agenda with the United States. The European Commission will again report on the status of the safeguard measures on steel imports due to expire in 2021.
- Charting the future course of European trade policy in order to ensure it is able to respond to the great variety of new global challenges and to lift Europe out of the COVID-19 crisis. A particular focus lies on the reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
- Discussing the status of EU-China trade relations, particularly as regards the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, with a view to creating a level playing field.
- In addition, the Chair of the Council is to report on the progress achieved in the field of trade policy under Germany’s Council Presidency, including the conclusion of the revision of the regulation on dual-use items, the revision of the implementing regulation, and the extension of the regulation on exceptional trade measures for Western Balkan countries participating in the EU’s stabilisation and association process.