The informal EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) took place in Bucharest on 21 and 22 February 2019. The formal agenda covered the World Trade Organization (WTO) and EU-US trade. I represented the UK at the meeting. A summary of the discussions follows:
Commissioner Malmström highlighted that the risk to the multilateral system was real, but was not sufficiently appreciated by much of the WTO membership.
Discussion focused on the need to keep the US engaged and anchored within the multilateral system while addressing US concerns about the appellate body. I stressed the seriousness of the current situation. Commissioner Malmström mentioned the recent launch of e-commerce negotiations as a positive development.
Commissioner Malmström said the Commission was focused on delivering the outcomes of the July 2018 Juncker-Trump meeting. She did not know the contents of the US 232 report into cars and reiterated that €20 billion (£17.2 billion) of EU “rebalancing measures” had been prepared. She called on member states to endorse the mandates.
In discussion, the mandates were endorsed by an overwhelming majority of member states. I urged the importance of moving forward at pace, emphasising the significant UK interests. Discussion revolved around timing. The Commission highlighted their commitment to moving forward as quickly as possible. The presidency offered an extraordinary Council meeting if needed to facilitate this.