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Blog: Trade and development - how EU commercial policy helps fight poverty overseas

Met dank overgenomen van A.C. (Cecilia) Malmström, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 24 januari 2017.

I am committed to the idea that trade should support our European values. And among the most important of those values is our commitment to support sustainable growth in the developing world - helping the least fortunate on the planet achieve the kind of lifestyles and livelihoods we've come to take for granted in Europe.

In our treaty - our mission statement - we are committed to promoting balanced growth, and sustainable development, not just here in Europe, but across the world. And I know that's a goal many share - including many of those campaigners and development experts with whom I shared a platform at an event hosted by charity ActionAid and the European Trade Union Confederation.

The EU is not just the world's biggest aid donor: but the world's biggest and most open market for the developing world, buying just over one trillion euros of goods a year. Those two policies, trade and development, support each other. We offer "asymmetric" trade access to developing countries: meaning we cut our tariffs for their exports to us, without them having to do likewise, helping them boost their exports, reduce poverty, and diversify their economy. Those tariff cuts are even more extensive for the least developed countries, or for those who agree to implement rules that improve their governance, human rights, and labour and environment protections.

For example, Bangladesh exports around 14.5 billion euros of goods to the EU under preferential zero tariffs: a figure equal to one twelfth of the country's GDP, and 30 times the development aid it receives from the EU and its member states. By showing they are plugged in to the global economic system, and offering the right kind of regulatory environment, developing countries can also attract international investors - those who build the factories and facilities that create quality jobs for the long term. That's something that I - and many others who champion development - want to see.

On top of this, our tariffs can help developing countries diversify their economies, and move higher up the value chain. So that - for example - their economy is not just focused on extracting and exporting raw materials (cocoa beans, say), but can produce and sell higher value products (like chocolate or cocoa butter). That in turn means better quality, more rewarding jobs - in manufacturing or industry rather than just mining or agriculture. Plus, the economic partnership agreements we have applied or concluded with 49 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific also help them trade and cooperate with their neighbours.

But economic growth must be sustainable; trade and investment cannot be at the expense of decency, humanity, or the planet.

So our recent trade deals, from Vietnam to Canada, include commitments on trade and sustainable development, under which our trade partners have to sign up to - and put into effect - major international conventions to protect workers' rights and help the environment. That includes - for example - international rules against child labour, or the Paris agreement on climate change.

These negotiations have an impact. For example: the international labour organisation convention on collective bargaining dates back to 1949; but Canada is only now in the process of ratifying it, following our trade negotiations with them.

And for many other countries across the world, the promise of getting better trade access to Europe - or the threat of losing it - is a powerful incentive to reform. I don't pretend trade is the solution to all the world's problems - I wish it were - but our commercial relations open the door to a wider dialogue with the developing world. And this is an essential ingredient for ensuring growth is sustainable in those parts of the world that need it most.

This is leverage we can use to shape globalisation: and ensure development happens in a way that is beneficial to citizens, and the planet.


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