Blog: Reviewing our trade agreements

Met dank overgenomen van A.C. (Cecilia) Malmström i, gepubliceerd op donderdag 9 november 2017.

I just returned from a few days in one of the EU's closest neighbours, Moldova. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I was there to take stock of the three years that have passed since our Deep an Comprehensive Free Trade Area (or DCFTA) was put in place.

The numbers are clear - exports from Moldova to the EU are so far up by over 15%, and more more in several sectors. For juices and conserved fruits, for instance, Moldovan exports to the EU have grown by 25%. Wine exports have nearly doubled.

As part of my trip, I visited the successful company Monicol, just outside the capital of Chisinau - a truly impressive facility. The company ships thousands of tonnes of dried fruit and nuts to the EU, exporting 95% of its total production duty free thanks to our agreement. It employs 160 permanent staff. I spoke with the CEO, Mr. Vicol, who told me that his work has become easier due to the DCFTA: ”If you have a good quality product at a good price, then that’s it - you can succeed on the EU market", he said.

There is still work to be done to maximise the benefits of the free trade area in Moldova. For example, once reforms in the food safety sector are carried out, it will enable Moldova to export more agricultural products to the EU and other foreign markets. And, of course, it will also benefit Moldovan consumers by increasing the quality of food.

Also, the general business climate needs to be improved in order to attract more foreign investors. Here, the fight against corruption is key.

Today, back in Brussels, we are releasing a report on a adjacent topic - a broad, comprehensive overview of the results of all EU trade agreements in place. Both of our DCFTAs, such as the one with Moldova, and of our free trade agreements with South Korea, Mexico, and others.

Today's report confirms that our trade agreements are indeed a boost for the European economy: they have meant significant increases in exports, benefitting EU firms and their employees. For instance, since we put our trade agreement with Mexico in place in the year 2000, EU exports have grown by 416%. For Chile (2003) and South Korea (2011), exports are up by 170% and 59%, respectively. Today's report also shows that it is often the EU agricultural and motor vehicles' sectors that benefit the very most.

We are on the right track when it comes to engaging concretely with our partners on labour and environmental standards. Only during last year, our agreements enabled us to engage in government-to-government meetings on issues such as freedom of association, child labour and collective bargaining.

This report also presents us with valuable lessons for self-reflection. It shows that we can do better when putting new agreements in place, in terms of making sure that companies actually use the provisions put in place to scrap customs tarrifs. Here, there is still a gap - the extent to which EU businesses are using tariff reductions is lower on the EU side than that of our partners. For exports to countries where there are new generation trade deals in place, EU companies make use of the rebates on customs duties for around 70% of their exports. Meanwhile, our partners use that duty rebate in around 90% of cases. So here, there is some homework to do, also on the national level.

The importance of following up on the results of our agreements cannot be overstated. The success of our policies is measured not only by striking new trade deals, but also by ensuring that our existing agreements actually deliver.