Communication from EU Commission proposes new initiatives on Trade policy

The European Commission published a Communication to the European Parliament on a “Balanced and Progressive Trade Policy to Harness Globalization”. In this document, the Commission lays out its vision and priorities in the field of trade negotiations, and makes some concrete proposals in several areas such as: creating a framework to screen foreign direct investment in the EU; starting negotiations to create a multilateral court for the settling of investment disputes and engaging in negotiations to conclude trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand. The multilateral court would build on the investment court system already enshrined in two EU deals, including the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and in the Vietnam-EU free trade agreement. Both agreements contain a reference to a potential future multilateral system. The Commission also proposed measures to enhance transparency in trade negotiations, by making public its recommendations for negotiating directives and by creating a group to provide advice on EU trade policy. The document highlights the importance of trade objectives to the fulfilment of other European policies, such as development and security. Some of the topics included in the Communication were part of the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s annual “State of the European Union” speech.