EU trade ministers discuss relations with US and China

Brussels – Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek attended an informal EU ministerial on Monday which saw ministers in charge of trade discuss relations with the US and China. The ministers welcomed the expected change in tone in transatlantic relations following the US election, a press release from the Economy Ministry said.

Based on the election campaign, it cannot be expected that US trade policy will return to business as usual, nevertheless most EU members hope for a better cooperation and more multilateralism, the ministry said.

Slovenia’s minister of economic development and technology said that the EU must preserve a constructive dialogue with the US and continue building strong transatlantic trade.

“The EU needs a strong trade policy with clear objectives. It is key that both the EU and member states pursue in multilateral relations a uniform trade system with emphasis on sustainability,” Počivalšek was quoted as saying.

Touching on safeguards for steel, Počivalšek said the EU must insist on opposition to the US imposing new tariffs on steel and aluminium. The EU must use every opportunity, in line with WTO rules, to prevent additional burdens on the steel industry, he believes.

Escalation of tensions in the steel sector must be avoided as much as possible. Future decisions about steel safeguards should be adopted solely on the base of a comprehensive analysis, he also said.

As regards the trade dispute over US subsidies to aircraft maker Boeing, Počivalšek said a unified response is required from the EU, adding it also must be proportionate with the the severity of violations. Slovenia supports countermeasures and proposes that the EU show willingness to resolve the situation in talks.

The discussion also touched on trade with China and negotiations about a comprehensive investment agreement, showing that member states, including Slovenia, favour such a document, but they also warn that substance must take precedence over speed.

“Slovenia wants to see ambitious results in terms of market access, fair competition conditions, investment protection and conflict resolution,” said Počivalšek.

However, he also cautioned about China’s interests, saying the country was trying to negotiate certain conditions, especially in energy and water distribution, that the EU usually does not negotiate on with other countries. Progress should also be made in sustainability and labour legislation, the minister said.