Ladies and gentlemen,
My thanks to Minister Počivalšek and the Slovenian presidency for steering today's discussion.
As we approach the end of 2021, this was a good opportunity to take stock of milestones achieved this year.
And we began mapping out the EU trade agenda for 2022.
Let me start with the first item on our agenda: the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, which starts at the end of this month.
A strong WTO is vital for the global trading system, which is why the EU is actively engaged in the run-up to MC12.
We are pushing for meaningful outcomes on all directions, and especially on two points:
First, Trade and Health - with the focus on delivering vaccines to everyone in the world.
Second, the launch of a WTO reform process - with a view to delivering substantive results by MC13.
On some files, positions allow us to see possible landing zones. On others, they are quite far apart.
We would need to see more commitment from our global partners to match our ambitions ahead of MC12. And we will need to work in a spirit of compromise.
On trade and health, universal and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines is a top priority for us, and we are engaged in intensive discussions.
We are clear that intellectual property should not be a barrier to ramping up vaccine production. Our proposal to achieve this is through facilitating the use of compulsory licences.
On fisheries subsidies negotiations, we continue to work towards an agreement at MC12.
Our approach is to focus on what matters. Namely:
-eliminating all forms of harmful subsidies; and
-looking at the justified needs for special and differential treatment for developing countries.
While there has been someprogress, still major gaps remain.
Finally, on agriculture, the EU considers a positive outcome important for a successful MC12.
If we want to see agreement in these areas, other countries need to accelerate their work and adopt a realistic approach.
Today's meeting also provided a welcome first occasion to debrief ministers on the latest breakthrough in EU-U.S. relations, with steps to resolve our differences on steel and aluminium.
In a nutshell, we agreed to hit the pause button on this major Trump era irritant, while initiating work on a new Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminium.
Add this success to the grounding of the Airbus-Boeing dispute, the pragmatic solution we found on Digital services taxes, and the launch of the Trade & Technology Council. It all adds up to a landmark year for transatlantic relations.
We have invested heavily in making this reset with the Biden administration happen.
Now, we want to build on these successes by getting our American colleagues to join us in pushing for meaningful outcomes at MC12.
I was grateful that USTR Katherine Tai joined today's discussion by video link-up, allowing me to make these points to her in person.
I also provided ministers with an update on the review of our trade and sustainable development agenda.
The various work streams feeding into this review are progressing well, and we expect to have meaningful discussions on this in the first half of 2022.
Finally, a few words on our recent report on the implementation and enforcement of trade agreements.
The Commission's approach in this area is paying dividends.
Here are some examples:
-We launched the Access2Markets portal to help small businesses export more;
-We launched the Single Entry Point to make it easier for companies to flag when they face export barriers or breaches of sustainability commitments;
-We removed 33 barriers last year; and
-Thanks to our work to remove trade barriers over the past 5 years, EU companies were able to export an additional €5.4 billion in 2020.
Growing our exports is more important than ever, particularly in terms of supporting economic recovery.
We have new numbers to prove this:
We are publishing our brand-new report on trade and jobs tomorrow.
It will show that 38 million European jobs are supported by EU exports.
That is seven million more than just seven years ago.
Every single Member State benefits from this.
The full report will be released at midday tomorrow; stay tuned!
To conclude, I would like to thank again the Slovenian Presidency and all Member States for our constructive discussions today. I look forward to taking your questions.