Yesterday, I took the early train to Paris where I had the great pleasure of meeting students, ministers, journalists and parliamentarians. The topic of the day was TTIP; the trade and investment agreement that the EU is negotiating with the US at the moment. The city was sunny and it was 28 degrees outside - it felt like summer.
I met Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, whom I know from before, since he was the French Minister of the Interior when I served as the European Commissioner for Home Affairs. We discussed the progress of the TTIP negotiations and the challenges and the possibilities that the EU is facing in this regard, the new trade strategy of the EU that I will present in September, as well as benefits for developing countries arising from trade. I also met Jean Pierre Jouyet, the Chief of Staff of President François Hollande and a friend from when we both served as national ministers for European Affairs, and Laurent Fabius, the Foreign Minister.
Three committees of the National Assembly, as well as the Senate, had called for a joint hearing which lasted for two hours. My speech, in French, is available here. It is of great importance that national parliaments engage with trade related matters, since their members have to be able to answer questions and concerns raised by citizens.
Improvements of EU-US trade conditions will provide significant benefits for small and medium-sized enterprises. I visited CNC Distribution (pictures here); a French company with eight employees, owned by Jean-Pierre Soubieux and his family. It is an online retailer of spare parts for machines, with customers in over 170 countries! With the whole world as a potential market, it is facing difficulties due to country specific regulations such as the classification of products in the US, which regularly causes consignments to be stuck in customs. Harmonised EU-US trade conditions, provided by TTIP, would benefit businesses like CNC Distribution, since they will be able to operate in a cheaper and a more efficient way and, as a result of this, be able to grow and hire more people.
The eventful day ended with a dinner with representatives from French industry.
A very fruitful visit to Paris.