spiritsNEWS June 2020

A renewed trade policy for a stronger Europe

On 16 of June, Commissioner Hogan launched a public consultation to review the strategic direction of EU trade policy in light of all the developments that have taken place since 2015, the year of the last review. The recent COVID pandemic, the EU-US trade dispute going on for more than 2 years and the necessary reform of WTO are key developments that need to be taken into consideration when deciding what the EU’s external trade policy should deliver for the years to come. spiritsEUROPE is preparing a response to the EU consultation, based on out long-term Trade Strategy adopted earlier this year.

We strongly believe in free trade and fair competition. Ensuring that these principles are truly implemented internationally is critical to our sector’s growth. Our sector has invested in building strong categories and brands which have gained a global reputation for quality and taste. It is a major challenge for companies to protect their heritage and innovation. In that process, trade needs to continue to top the EU agenda with the right ingredients for a perfect mix: an ambitious EU trade policy based on the values of fairness and sustainability.

To preserve market access, we need to fight calls for protectionism and support our sector in reaching out to new territories. EU trade policy should therefore pursue the bilateral agenda which has delivered already so many benefits as highlighted by Commissioner Hogan. Benefits in terms of wider consumer choice, opportunity to export our values and standards, growth for European producers and recognition of the international leadership of the Union. 

These FTAs are key to achieve the dismantling of tariffs, efficient customs formalities, to fight tax discrimination, promote regulatory convergence, solve trade disputes and crucially for us, to achieve strong protection of intellectual property rights such as Geographical Indications (GIs). In 2019, our exports outside Europe reached €12.5 bn (+119% over the last decade) and GIs accounted for two-thirds of these exports, generating growth and jobs back in the regions and rural community where they are produced.

However, bilateral and multilateral trade rules are worth nothing if they are not properly implemented and enforced. We have for long called for an enforcement body for the internal market and external trade. We fully welcome the forthcoming appointment of an EU Chief Trade Enforcement Officer, who will have a critical role in addressing swiftly any market access issues and supporting SMEs to make the best of the opportunities provided by the FTAs.

While revising our EU trade policy, we should also have clear objectives for the reform of the WTO. The essential functions of the WTO should be preserved and modernised to continue to offer confidence and stability for business to trade and invest. It is fundamental to us and we look forward to engaging with the new leadership team of the WTO.

Our final wish is to take part in the recovery effort but for that, the EU should give us the means, in particular to export successfully across the world and to the US in particular (Top-export market for decades). As mentioned in the Editorial, we quickly need a negotiated solution to this longstanding dispute we have between the EU and US. The spiral of further escalation needs to stop now – at the very least for entirely unrelated sectors like ours. 

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