Interview with Eurochambres International Trade Committee Chair, Ian Talbot
More than 30 million jobs in the European Union depend on external trade, and with close to 90% of global economic growth expected to be generated outside Europe in the coming years, access to the world’s growth centres will become ever more important for European companies. Predictable, transparent, and fair global trade rules that work for businesses of all sizes and protect European companies, especially SMEs, from unfair trading practices are therefore essential. The role of business and the expertise of chambers will continue to be crucial in achieving this.
European businesses are encountering unprecedented economic challenges, a global economy which is cooling significantly, continued supply chain strains, and constrained public budgets following COVID-19 support measures. This makes the contribution of international trade more important than ever to create jobs and prosperity here in Europe.
1. What is the main priority of the international trade committee for the remainder of 2022?
We will be working closely with the Czech Presidency of the Council and the other EU institutions to focus on a strong trade policy aimed at opening international markets for European goods, services, investment and public procurement, as well as reducing or eliminating unjustified trade barriers in third country markets. This is not only vital in terms of our economic recovery, but also to make the green and digital transition a success, for instance through a better and more effective access to key raw materials.
2. What activities do you have lined up in this area?
During our most recent committee meeting in June, we re-affirmed our primary goals of the need to revitalize the European trade agenda, while at the same time making sure the benefits of trade reach better our SMEs. Our goal of an open strategic autonomy in Europe can only be attained if we are able to diversify further our supply chains. Concluding more trade agreements is a crucial step to achieve this, as is ensuring that our SMEs are well briefed to take advantage of agreements already in place. Therefore, for the next half a year, as a Chamber network we will work with the EU Institutions to have a more active trade agenda that can unlock economic growth. We will be pressing for a revitalized EU trade agenda and progress on a number of trade agreements that have the potential to benefit European businesses once ratified or concluded, including New Zealand and Australia in Oceania, and Chile, Mexico or Mercosur in Latin America to name a few. Additionally, we will have important milestones for our economic relationship with the UK, such as the first EU-UK civil society forum in the autumn, as well as the second EU-UK Partnership Council towards the end of the year where governments, business organisations, such as Chambers of Commerce, and the wider civil society will take stock of the EU-UK TCA agreement. Lastly, we will also continue our efforts to boost transatlantic economic relations ahead of the third meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) later this year.
3. The pandemic and now the war in Ukraine have had a significant impact on the business community. How do you perceive this in relation to international trade?
The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have of course had an extremely profound impact on the European business community and on our bilateral trade relations with the region in particular. After six sanction packages from the European Union, what we are seeing is fast decoupling from the Russian economy and unfortunately due to the devasting Russian attack, our trade with Ukraine has also greatly receded. But the implications of this war are reaching far beyond the European continent. We are seeing the potential of an emerging food crisis on the horizon, and trade growth will be halved this year as a consequence of the war in Ukraine alone.
This underlines the relevance and importance of chambers working closely with EU policy-makers to maintain an open and predictable global trading environment that will allow our companies to navigate the increasingly difficult and volatile global context that we are currently witnessing.