The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) took place in Brussels on 27 May 2019. Sir Tim Barrow, UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, represented the UK at the meeting. A summary of the discussions follows.
Commissioner Malmström provided an update on WTO reform, focusing particularly on the appellate body. Following her meetings last week in the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council meeting in Paris, she reported positive progress in the EU-US-Japan trilateral process on industrial subsidies, and also in building support for proposals to enhance transparency and notifications. Nearly 60 countries had agreed to launch negotiations on domestic regulation in services. However, negotiations on fisheries subsides were not on track for conclusion by the agreed end-year deadline.
Member states, (including the UK), endorsed the Commission’s approach to the appellate body and other WTO reform issues. Ministers formally adopted the negotiating mandate for the E-Commerce joint statement initiative.
Commissioner Malmström updated Ministers on EU-US trade relations following her recent meeting with US Trade Representative (USTR) Lighthizer, and in the light of President Trump’s recent announcement, which delayed a final decision on auto tariffs by 180 days while instructing USTR to adjust the level of auto imports into the US. The Commissioner reiterated the EU’s position that any solution must be WTO-compatible. Talks between the two sides continue, including on potential agreements to reduce industrial tariffs and enhance regulatory co-operation.
Member states provided strong support for the Commission’s approach and for continued negotiations with the US on industrial tariffs and regulatory co-operation. Member states also expressed views on a range of other EU-US trade issues, including the Airbus/Boeing dispute and the US enactment of the Helms-Burton Act.
The presidency set out their ambition for the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement and investment protection agreement to be signed during the G20 summit on 28-29 June, with Council adoption on 25 June. Labour and human rights were discussed. Most member states indicated readiness to meet the timeline for signature of the FTA. Progress of member states’ internal procedures over the investment protection agreement was likely to be slower.