The International Trade Council recognizes the challenges currently faced by the European Union (EU) regarding the slow progress of trade agreement ratifications, as nations grapple with what's been described as 'trade agreement fatigue'.
As per our latest records, the EU currently maintains 41 trade agreements with 72 countries. Yet, the prolonged discussions and complex negotiations surrounding these agreements have led to a sense of disillusionment among some member states, leading to the reconsideration of their enthusiasm for continued negotiations.
The Finnish Foreign Trade Minister, Ville Skinnari, expressed this sentiment aptly when speaking to Euronews, affirming that "fatigue" has indeed taken hold in light of protracted negotiations, such as the decade-long EU-India Free Trade Agreement talks.
The International Trade Council underscores the criticality of these agreements and the need to expedite their finalization in order to facilitate global economic growth and stability. However, we also understand the concerns expressed by certain EU members about the actual value added by such deals.
French Minister for Foreign Trade, Olivier Becht, stated that the slowdown is not merely about fatigue, but about the need to safeguard European interests, especially in sensitive sectors like agriculture.
The International Trade Council stands with this sentiment and emphasizes the need for careful and thoughtful negotiations that respect all parties' interests and take into consideration public opinion within member states.
We also acknowledge the view of Niclas Poitiers, a researcher at the Bruegel Institute, regarding the dual impacts of lowered tariffs and displacement in industries due to globalization and technology, leading to increased inequality within the EU.
These agreements have historically represented the EU's commitment to multilateralism. Yet, the shifting international geopolitical landscape and supply chain difficulties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have urged member states to re-evaluate their approach to free trade agreements.
The International Trade Council calls for a renewed strategy and concerted effort from all stakeholders to navigate through this 'fatigue' and engage in meaningful negotiations that yield mutually beneficial trade agreements.