A report from the World Trade Organization released earlier this month emphasized the European Union’s leading role in global trade and lauded its “open and transparent” trade and investment regimes.
As one of the biggest economies and trading entities in the world, EU trade policy matters not only to the 28 member states, but to the world at large. Cecilia Malmström has stated that her goal as EU Trade Commissioner “is to develop an EU trade policy that improves people's lives, in Europe and around the world, by providing economic opportunity and supporting a more integrated, innovative and peaceful world.”
Since the WTO’s last trade policy review two years ago, the EU economy has been characterized by anemic growth, with no increased in GDP in 2013 and just 1.3% in 2014. The continent has also been plagued by an ongoing monetary crisis in the euro zone.
Among the facts highlighted in the report, 31 million jobs in the EU are supported by its participation in global trade. Forty-five percent of the total outflows of foreign direct investment came from the EU in 2013 and it hosted almost half of world inflows, not including investments among EU member states.
EU imports amounted to $238 billion in 2014. The least developed countries exported goods worth $42 billion to the EU, five percent more than in 2013. EU imports of agricultural products totaled $115 billion in 2014, a significant portion coming from the developing countries. The EU is the leading importer of agricultural products from developing countries.
According to the report, the vast majority of EU sanitary and phytosanitary regulations are based on international standards. EU legislation mandates high levels of consumer and environment protection, frequently higher than in other WTO Members.
The report also noted a few negatives, including the significant differences among member states in the time and cost required to import and export. These disparities are mainly due to differences in infrastructure, according to the report.
The report also noted that some member states continue to provide export credits and other support to businesses that are prohibited by the EU treaty. However, the report noted state aid rules are undergoing reform and that the trend for the total level of state aid has been declining for several years.
Click here to download the full report.