Strengthening the EU's trade ties – Mexico and beyond

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The 28 member states of the European Union – and 27, once the UK has left us – together form one of the largest trading blocs in the world. The EU’s strength as both exporter and importer gives a powerful voice in international trade negotiations and in fora like the World Trade Organisation.

But as a wise man once said – with great power comes great responsibility. With our strength follows an obligation to strive for a global trade system based on fairness and multilateral rules. That is why EU trade policy needs to be at once effective, transparent and value-based.

In the world of global trade, circumstances change quickly, and the European Union needs to be well equipped and able to adapt to those new realities. As part of our broad trade agenda, we are initiating and negotiating trade agreements with partners all over the world, while working to improve agreements that are already in place. One of the agreements that are currently being revamped is the one between the EU and Mexico, originally concluded in 2000 and in need of an update. Together, we now aim for a broader and more far-reaching deal, benefiting both European and Mexican citizens.

The latest round of negotiations took place in April, and the next is scheduled for June. In order to take stock and accelerate further progress, I am meeting Minister of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo in Mexico City this month to discuss how to take the negotiations forward. While there, I am also taking the chance to meet with European and Mexican businesses as well as civil society organisations, trade unions and other actors, in order to strengthen our exchange between stakeholders further.

The European Union enjoys long-standing and deep trade ties with Mexico, but it has indeed been a long time since the last update of our relationship. Global trade patterns have changed substantially during the sixteen-year period since our existing deal was struck. In our ongoing negotiations, we are now working towards an agreement that can better mirror other ambitious trade deals that the EU and Mexico have since negotiated – such as our recent agreement with Canada – and that corresponds better to the trade structures of today. A few decades ago, Mexico mainly exported raw materials and agricultural products and imported manufactured goods. Today, Mexican import and export of manufactured goods are on equal levels and trade in services is increasing.

The EU is Mexico’s third-largest trading partner after the US and China, and Mexico’s biggest export market after the US. Between 2005 and 2015, the yearly trade flow of goods between us more than doubled, from 26 to 53 billion euros, thanks to our already existing agreement. EU foreign direct investment stock has accumulated $156 billion since the deal came into force. Apart from boosting this already important trade, making our ties to Mexico more efficient would also provide greater access for European companies to both North and Central America, connected to the Mexican economy through dynamic supply chains. And an update would also contribute to Mexico’s long-term goal of diversifying its economy further.

Among the things we are now discussing is protecting European products and know-how with so-called ‘geographical indications’, as well as finding ways to balance the need to uphold our respective sanitary measures for goods like vegetables while making sure they do not overlap and create unnecessary barriers. Also, chapters on sustainable development and intellectual property rights are being developed. Work is now well underway to deepen openness on both sides in order to boost growth, make our firms more competitive, widen choice for consumers, and create jobs. Our goal is to have a political conclusion to these negotiations by the end of this year. At the same time, it’s important to get this deal exactly right – substance, as always, must prevail over speed.

In line with our commitment to a more transparent trade and investment policy we have published our negotiating proposals on our website for all to see. This enables interested parties to join and contribute to the discussion, which I believe is absolutely necessary to reach a good agreement.

In a time when protectionism is on the rise the world over, supporters of open trade must stand up for the idea of further cooperation. Fair and effective trade agreements, based on commonly agreed rules, are not only important for economic growth but can also be a way to promote sustainable development and shared values. As part of our agenda, we are soon kicking off negotiations with Australia and New Zeeland while continuing our talks with, for instance, Indonesia and the Mercosur bloc. With our closest Asian ally Japan, we will hopefully reach a deal quite soon. And at one point in the future, our trade agenda will also encompass negotiations with the UK, once the principles of the withdrawal from the EU have been decided upon.

Going forward, the EU will continue to build bridges instead of walls, and work for progressive trade agreements with partners all over the world.

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