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Incoming EU Chief Outlines Trade Priorities

Friday, September 13, 2019
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has named Phil Hogan as her trade commissioner, subject to approval by the European Parliament. In a Sept. 10 letter von der Leyen outlined the trade-related priorities that she expects Hogan to pursue over his anticipated five-year tenure.

While the letter emphasized the need to work toward a positive, balanced, and mutually beneficial trading partnership with the U.S., it also tasked Hogan with upgrading the EU’s Enforcement Regulation to allow the use of sanctions when others adopt illegal measures and simultaneously block the World Trade Organization dispute settlement process, both of which the EU has charged the U.S. with doing under the Trump administration.

Von der Leyen also signaled her interest in improving the effectiveness of the WTO. She said Hogan should lead WTO reform efforts, notably on the issues of subsidies, forced technology transfer, and dispute settlement, with the goal of launching a broad initiative by the end of 2020 and completing a comprehensive agreement by 2022. Hogan will also work to give further impetus to WTO negotiations on e-commerce.

Enforcement will be another priority area, the letter indicated. Hogan will be charged with leading the work on strengthening the EU’s ability to protect itself from unfair trade practices by making better use of its trade defense instruments, seeking a level playing field in procurement, and implementing the new system for screening foreign direct investment. He will also oversee a new chief trade enforcement officer who will focus on monitoring and improving compliance with EU trade agreements, particularly the implementation of climate, environmental, and labor protections.

Finally, von der Leyen anticipates stepping up negotiations with China on a comprehensive investment agreement, with the aim of concluding a deal by the end of 2020, as well as concluding trade agreement negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.

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