European Industrial PolicyA NEW TRADE POLICY
In recent years and mainly since the start of thefinancial crisis, the traditional trade policy of theEuropean Union has occasionally been called intoquestion by various sectors, including in theEuropean Commission's repeated opinions on thesubject.
Proposals to make changes to the EU's tradepolicy as regards particular countries or sectorsoften relate to specific questions concerning theinterpretation of the concept of reciprocity orproblems that current policies pose for a particularindustrial sector.
In our opinion, however, Europe urgently needsa conceptual review of the basis underpinning itstrade policy.
In recent decades, not only European tradepolicy but also western trade policy and all globaltrade policies have been governed by the "freetrade" principle i.e. removal of tariff barriers andany form of restriction to imports and exports of goods and services should be progressively scaledback and if possible removed.
However, the application of these conceptualbases has lead to situations which are difficult to justify in various sectors.
In practice, the traditional principles of tradepolicy are generating such clear practicalcontradictions that they are increasingly beingcalled into question in the various internationalnegotiations and relationships in this area.
In our opinion, this trend is not positive or, to putit another way, it is not appropriate. Calling intoquestion the basic traditional principles of international trade without having other alternativebasic criteria may gradually lead to policies whichare excessively based on cyclical economic reasonsor reasons which are unstable or overlyopportunistic.
More specifically, a position which, for thepurpose of each bilateral and multilateralnegotiation, is based exclusively on what businesseslose and what businesses gain may turn out to bean unstable and unfair framework for relations inthe medium to long term not only for the EuropeanUnion itself but also for the global market.
We feel it is important to define as soon aspossible a new conceptual framework to underpininternational trade relations with a logical basis,which is reasonable enough for it to be accepted, intheory at least, by various countries.
With a view to defining these new conceptualbases, one question should be taken into accountabove all else: the need to avoid the traditionalcomparison between "free competition" and "freetrade".
especially in recent years
shows us that it is not possible to maintain theprinciple of "free trade" as a basic guide tointernational trade without taking into account theobjective differences between various countries interms of tax, social or environmental obligations onbusinesses.It is not logical or ethically acceptable that, whilewe impose the extra burdens we deem necessaryon our businesses in terms of security, theenvironment and taxation, etc. we allow the importof the same products produced by these businesseswithout requesting that they meet these conditionsand without offsetting these lesser requirementsthrough tariffs.
Clearly this is a complex question both from aneconomic and political point of view.