Trade Agreements no doubt play an important role in EU trade policy. And they attract a lot of attention, which is good. Yet, they are not the only game in town.
Perhaps just as important is our battle on the ground to identify and bring down practical problems European exporters face. This is what the EU is doing under the so called Market Access Partnership with EU governments and industry.
Today, I'd like to share with you the results of the new annual report about our Market Access Strategy. The report is titled Trade and Investment Barrier report.
This report is a result of a pragmatic approach; it takes into account the real barriers that EU companies report to us - from border measures, or unjustified regulatory barriers, etcetera.
The report brings us two main news: one good one and one bad one.
Let me start with the bad news.
The report confirms that the rise of protectionism is real, and that it affects European firms and their workers.
In 2016 alone, EU exporters reported a 10% increase in the number of trade barriers. This is a lot - these barriers could cost EU businesses more than €27 billion in lost exports.
Unfortunately, G20 countries account for the highest number of barriers: Russia, China, India - to mention a few.
At the G20 summit in Hamburg taking place next week, the EU will urge the leaders to walk the talk and resist protectionism.
We are taking action. We will defend Europe against those who don't play by the rules. The EU leaders in Hamburg will be very clear about this, and fight hard for the rights of our exporters by all means at our disposal.
The report also brings some good news. It reveals that our Market Access strategy is working.
Just during the course of last year, a total of 20 existing trade barriers - including several long-standing ones - were resolved.
This created additional export opportunities for EU companies amounting to billions of Euros, or the equivalent of a small trade deal - such as the one concluded with Colombia.
We have removed trade barriers in 12 different countries around the world, ranging from South Korea and Japan to Argentina or Ukraine, just to mention a few.
Agriculture, alcoholic beverages, automotive, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and ICT were among the many sectors that benefitted from this work - including small and bigger companies alike.
We've solved concrete problems that every year support thousands of jobs of individual EU citizens.
One example is an Italian small company 'Framesi SpA', exporting cosmetics products to 70 countries across the globe.
The barrier they faced may seem silly: China wanted to forbid adding stickers on the packaging with all the information about the products in the local language - a method widely used in the cosmetics industry all around the world, which I am sure you have seen also in Europe.
But this ban would have effectively closed the Chinese market for the company entirely, since it was not able to open a whole new production line for packaging. So, something as concrete as a sticker could threaten thousands of jobs in Europe.
As a result of our efforts and discussions with Chinese authorities, China did not proceed with the ban.
This allowed Framesi - as well as similar European companies - to continue exporting to this crucial market, and support jobs in the EU.
The highly export-oriented cosmetics industry employs 1.8 million workers in Europe and comprises 4,600 small and medium sized companies.
Let me emphasise that these successes are not Commission's work alone: it is a joint effort with Member States and business.
But we can do even more together. This is why in our 'Trade for All' strategy we called for an enhanced partnership that would reinforce efforts joint work and extend them to implementation of our trade agreements as well.
Talking about our trade agreements, just to give you a small update - this week we continue to pursue our strategy to open up markets in particular in Asia and Latin America. Today, another round of EU-Mexico trade talks is starting and I expect to see good progress done this week across all the areas of this deal. I was in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, and the Mexican Minister of Economy and I agreed to do our utmost to have this agreement done by the end of the year.
Also, my chief trade negotiator with Japan is in Tokyo, instructed to stay for as long as it is needed to get this deal done. We are right now in an intense phase of our negotiations. We hope to close an agreement in principle very soon.
This is an agreement that will help us shape globalisation in line with European values. In the current international environment an ambitious EU-Japan deal would send a powerful signal to the rest of the world that two of the largest economies are resisting protectionism, in favour of openness, of trade and investment. These are the best tools to harness and shape globalisation and create more economic growth and jobs.
This will be a European trade agreement that follows our new, state of the art model of FTAs. It contains the same guarantees for EU values and citizens as our agreement with Canada.
This means that principles like transparency, upholding EU standards on social, environmental and consumer protection, the right to regulate or sustainable development are not up to negotiation and will be enshrined in the final text.