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For over 20 years the WTO has played an important role in creating a prosperous, peaceful and predictable economic order. But in recent years the world has changed and the WTO has not kept pace. That is why the EU is committed to overcome the current WTO deadlock and is pushing for an ambitious agenda in which a reformed and modernised WTO can continue to be at the centre of a rules-based multilateral system.
Margarete Schramböck, Austrian Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs and President of the Council
The Council discussed ongoing work on the modernisation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Commission briefed ministers on the latest developments in its initiative to develop and promote the EU’s comprehensive approach which is aimed at reviewing all the main functions of the organisation: rulemaking, monitoring and dispute settlement.
Ministers expressed their strong support for the Commission’s ongoing efforts to revive cooperation in the multilateral framework. They called for an ambitious and prompt reform of the functioning of the WTO appellate body in order to resolve the current deadlock over the process for appointing new judges. They also welcomed the recent joint EU-Japan-US proposal to improve compliance with members’ notification of trade measures.
The Council encouraged the Commission to continue its work with key partners and the wider WTO membership on reforming the organisation.
The Council reviewed the state of play of a number of important ongoing bilateral negotiations, in particular those with Mercosur, Indonesia, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, China and Tunisia. The Council was also informed about the most recent progress with regard to discussions on the Multilateral Investment Court project and on the possible accession of the EU to the Mauritius Convention on transparency.
Ministers reiterated their commitment to free and fair trade and their support for a positive trade agenda. They called on the Commission to continue its efforts to reach timely and well-balanced outcomes to all the ongoing negotiations.
The Council took note of the recent adoption of Commission proposals for the signing and the conclusion of trade and investment agreements with Vietnam. The Council’s preparatory bodies have already begun examining both agreements.
The Commission also presented its second report on the implementation of free trade agreements (FTAs), drawing attention to their positive impact on EU exports and economic growth. According to the Commission, FTAs covering nearly 70 markets all over the world – are proving effective in removing barriers to trade and promoting high standards of labour and environmental protection. Ministers welcomed the report and recalled their interest in the monitoring of implementation of free trade agreements.
Ministers were also informed about progress in the negotiations with the European Parliament on the regulations on foreign direct investment screening and horizontal bilateral safeguards.
Over lunch, ministers discussed recent developments in the EU’s trade relations with the United States.
Without discussion, the Council adopted a regulation bringing down barriers to the free movement of non-personal data, new rules strengthening the IT architecture in the justice and home affairs area. They also greenlighted the relocation after Brexit of the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority to Amsterdam and Paris respectively.