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On 18th February 2021, EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis presented the eagerly awaited Communication on the realignment of EU trade policy. This Communication marks the end of a long lasting process and shall, according to the Commission, be the start of a paradigm change towards a sustainable but nevertheless assertive trade policy.

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While the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the vulnerabilities of the global economy, the cause and shortcomings of trade policy’s persisting legitimacy crisis are rooted much deeper and are reinforced by the EU’s trade and investment agenda. This Policy Brief comprehensively looks at shortcomings and vulnerabilities of the global economy beyond the coronavirus pandemic and proposes a number of principles to ensure that EU trade and investment policy puts public welfare above private profit interests.

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Henrike Schaum

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Vincent Perle

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Since 2012, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has published a Report on the issue of Trade and Development on an annual basis. Within the scope of an event, the Representatives of civil society and UNCTAD discussed the Report as well as the question as to what the way out of the crisis towards well-being for all might look like.

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Following about seven years of negotiations, the EU and China reached an agreement in principle on investment shortly before the end of 2020. However, it will take a while until the agreement, which is supposed to facilitate EU investors’ access to the Chinese Market and to ensure sustainable development, will come into force.

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If the EU wants to achieve its goal of climate neutrality by 2050 and not jeopardise the implementation of the Green Deal, trade policy will also have to make a contribution. Afterall, international trade with its global net of value chains and long transport routes, increasingly adds to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.  

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Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis plans for EU trade policy to place more focus on the subject of sustainability. Apart from a future initiative at WTO level, a new EU complaint mechanism shall also lead to improvements. However, looking at the Commission’s past initiatives, expectations are rather low. a

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For two years now, negotiations have been ongoing at WTO level concerning new rules for electronic commerce. As one of 42 civil society organisations, the Chamber of Labour has issued a declaration insisting that the protection of the fundamental right to data protection and privacy will take top priority.

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With a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, the EU seeks to herald the start of a new era of cooperation with China before the end of 2020. However, this is proving to be difficult – not least because China shows (too) little willingness to improve the human rights and labour law situation in the country.

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Already before the crisis, discussions were going on as to which opportunities and risks trade agreements (might) bring for women. Now, the COVID-19 crisis has a particular serious impact on women – also in respect of international trade.