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The importance of trade deals

Posted by Nick Prag at 15 February 2019, 00:55 CET |
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An important milestone for the EU's negotiations of various trade deals around the world this week, as MEPs gave their green light to the trade and investment agreement between the EU and Singapore.

With the free trade agreement with Canada provisionally in force since September 2017, and a trade agreement with Japan agreed by MEPs in December, the first EU bilateral trade agreement with a Southeast Asian country shows a determination by the EU to press ahead with this and many other trade negotiations currently ongoing around the world.

It also reflects the EU's aim of promoting cooperation and multilateralism through trade, and creating new opportunities for European business in uncertain times.

Trade agreements all depend on approval by the European Parliament, which has its red lines in trade agreements, on jobs, and standards. They also include clauses regarding human rights and labour rights in trade agreements to help improve the situation in countries the EU trades with.

In the main, the agreements are very important to the EU as a key driver of economic growth, creating new business opportunities for European companies, with more jobs created, and more choice and lower prices for consumers.

In Britain, the ability to make bilateral trade agreements after Brexit has been touted by the extremist right-wing 'leavers' as one of the main benefits of leaving the EU.

However, it transpired this week that very few - four - have been actually signed.

And as former Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke MP pointed out in a Brexit debate today, the UK has much less bargaining power on its own compared with what the EU has as a bloc in carrying out bargaining arrangements.

And "very important countries such as Japan and South Korea, and others, are going to expect better terms from the UK, at the expense of the UK, than they have had to give to the EU."

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.