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EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade)

Volume 546: debated on Wednesday 13 June 2012

The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) took place in Brussels on 31 May 2012. I represented the UK on all the issues discussed at the meeting. A summary of those discussions follows.

Three “A” points relating to trade agreements with Peru and Colombia, Vietnam, and Moldova (on geographical indicators) were all approved without comment.

The presidency informed the Council that provisional agreements on two legislative items had been reached, namely the reform of the generalised system of preferences (GSP) and the regulation on bilateral investment treaties (BITs). These agreements will now be put to the European Parliament and then to the Council.

Five substantive “non-legislative” items were discussed: the result of EU-Japan scoping talks on a potential free trade agreement (FTA); the work of the EU-US high level working group on growth and jobs (HLWG); the progress of the EU-Canada comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CETA); the trade and growth agenda; and green growth.

On the EU-Japan scoping talks there was a debate on the state of play. I reiterated UK support for a potential FTA. On the EU-US HLWG, I reiterated our support for a comprehensive deal and for ambition, commitment and momentum to be maintained. The discussion around the EU-Canada CETA highlighted the progress made and specifically covered intellectual property rights, financial services, geographic indicators and agricultural market access. The discussion on trade and growth followed the Commission’s presentation on the benefits for EU jobs and growth of the various FTA negotiations, with member states agreeing on the important role that trade had to play within this. Within the discussion on green growth, the Council supported the call for action in the pursuit of liberalisation of green goods and services.

Under AOB, the Council discussed recent Argentine trade restrictive measures with member states offering their support to Spain following Argentina’s expropriation of energy company Repsol’s majority stake in YFP, and agreed on the overall need to avoid protectionist tendencies.

Over lunch, there were discussions on the EU’s trade relations with China and India. I intervened in support of a more strategic approach to EU-China trade issues and suggested more regular discussions at the Trade Policy Committee of EU relations with key strategic partners. Member states received an update on negotiations on the EU-India FTA.