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Malmström on EU Trade Policy: Building Bridges Not Walls

Posted March 24, 2017

Canada is a key partner in the fight to combat the protectionist trade rhetoric and anti-globalization sentiment that has recently gained traction in the United States, Britain and elsewhere in the world, the European Union’s Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told business leaders in an uncompromising speech earlier this week at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto.

“In an age when some doors are closing, we are clear to the world that ours are open,” Malmström said, adding that “We are building bridges, not walls” – an obvious reference to the nationalistic trade policies of U.S. President Donald Trump and in particular his vow to construct a “big, beautiful wall” along the border with Mexico.

“In Europe, long divided itself by walls and borders, we know those divisions bring anything but freedom and prosperity. We know that unplugging from the global grid is not an option; it would kill jobs, not create them. It would raise prices for consumers, not lower them.”

In another jab at the Trump administration’s zero-sum worldview, Malmström said that while “some see trade as a game you win or lose” the EU believes that “trade agreements can be win-win.”

She also took aim at a proposed U.S. “border adjustment tax” that Malmström contended would adversely affect trade, “be at odds with World Trade Organization rules,” and mean higher prices, “hitting the poorest hardest of all.” Additionally, she warned that “it would cost jobs; for the relatively wealthy countries of Canada and the EU and for the developing world.”

Malmström was in Canada for an official two-day visit, her first as Trade Commissioner, meeting with Canadian counterpart Francois-Philippe Champagne and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to advance the implementation of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which she described as “the most ambitious and progressive we have ever struck.”

Touted by officials on both sides as the gold standard in so-called “next generation” trade deals, Malmström said that CETA “is setting a role model for us” and will likely be the template for future accords with other countries. “We want to have this as a blueprint for many other trade agreements,” she said, while noting that the EU is currently pursuing a number of such deals in southeast Asia, Japan and Mexico. 

Related: Video of Cecilia Malmström’s address from earlier this month to Brännpunkt Europa (Focal Point Europe), a student-led organization based at her alma mater, the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, on the topic of “Building Bridges Not Walls: European Trade Policy in an era of increased protectionism.”