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free trade agreements

Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and the members of the European Committee of the Regions’ (CoR) commission for economic policy (ECON) discussed the opportunities and obstacles of implementing EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) on local and regional level.

EU trade agreements with third countries cover more than 70 markets and approximately 41 percent of EU trade in goods worldwide. Currently about 36 million jobs in the EU depend on exports to the rest of the world. Despite the important potential that trade continues to deliver in terms of growth, employment, job creation and investment in the EU, more needs to be done to increase the uptake of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) on the ground, according to commissioner Hogan and the ECON.

Knowledge gap

A recent (2019) survey by the CoR in cooperation with Eurochambres shows that effective trade implementation requires addressing the knowledge gap surrounding EU FTAs by providing practical information on how small and medium size enterprises (SME’s) can make use of them in practice.

“Given the low uptake of trade agreements, we strongly believe that FTAs should be made fit for SMEs as much as SMEs should be made fit for FTAs. Local and regional authorities can play a vital role in this regard as they are well positioned to disseminate information about the benefits of FTAs due to their knowledge of and proximity to SMEs”, according to Michael Murphy (IE/EPP), chair of the ECON commission and rapporteur on the CoR opinion on the ‘Implementation of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs): the regional and local perspective’.

“At the same time we have to be careful not to turn a blind eye to territories that are not prepared to deal with international competition as our role is to ensure that no region is left behind. Territorial Impact Assessments can be a powerful tool, in that respect, helping to identify and quantify possible impacts early and thus allowing cities and regions to put the right policies into place in time”, said Murphy (IE/EPP).

Implementation

“I welcome the Committee’s first draft opinion on implementation of our Free Trade Agreements. Regions have a key role in implementation. As the draft opinion suggests, regions and their local business and citizens are key beneficiaries of FTAs. I hope that this draft opinion will be the beginning of a more systematic engagement between the Commission and the Committee of the Regions in relation to implementation of our trade agreements”, added Commissioner Hogan.

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