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The need for a united Europe on Trade

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On Tuesday, December 10, the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ceased to function. For months, the United States has been opposed to the renewal of its judges and has categorically refused to find a solution, leading to its de facto suspension.

A hard blow to multilateralism. The WTO remains the cornerstone of rules-based international trade. By attacking the Appellate Body, the WTO as a whole is affected.

It must be said that the WTO is not a collateral victim of the United States' action but one of the targets of its trade war. Since his arrival at the White House, Donald Trump has destabilised the world economic order. The prospect of presidential elections in the United States will not calm his enthusiasm.

Threats, attacks, refusal to compromise, Donald Trump tramples on WTO rules and forces his partners to negotiate agreements. The Chinese are being hit by billions of dollars in tariffs and Donald Trump has announced that he wants to tax steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina. Europe is not to be outdone. European steel and aluminium have been affected by illegal US tariffs for almost two years. 6.8 billion euros of US retaliatory measures have been targeting European products in the Airbus-Boeing case for two months. In response to the introduction of a GAFA tax, the United States targeted France this time, wishing to impose customs duties of up to 100% on €2.15 billion of French products.

Europe must be more proactive

In the context of these repeated attacks, Europe has reacted and must be more offensive. Phil Hogan, the new Trade Commissioner, recalled that the EU will act to support France if our products are taxed. Support has been announced for the wine sector following the Airbus/Boeing customs duties, which must be followed by other measures for our farmers. In a few months' time, Europe will have to retaliate firmly and hit American products in turn in this same case.

We are not standing still. However, all these measures have gone almost unnoticed. Citizens must be aware of this and be informed of it: Europe is responding, because the danger is real. By targeting certain European countries, Donald Trump wants to divide us and encourage the rise of populism in Europe. We must not fall into this trap. We will always be stronger together, 500 million citizens, than alone.

The European Union is the world's leading trading bloc. Let us affirm this loud and clear. One in seven jobs depends on exports to Europe. In Brittany, 3,716 companies exported for a total amount of 11.4 billion euros in 2018. We must now strengthen our trade policy. International trade must be based on our values and reciprocity. Coordination with other European policies is crucial. Thus, trade policy must contribute to achieving the objectives of the Green Deal. Strengthening our trade defence, access to foreign public procurement, integrating the Paris Agreement into our trade agreements, these are some of the priorities that the European Parliament must address. As Vice-Chairwoman of the International Trade Committee, I will continue to defend a stronger, more aggressive trade policy that meets the expectations of citizens.

Op-ed initially published in Ouest France.

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