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Discussion with Frank Hoffmeister, Head of Unit at the European Commission and Former Deputy Head of Cabinet of Karl de Gucht, concerning EU Trade and Development Policy, at Brussels, Belgium providing by Global Learning.

The European Union is seeking to make economic agreements with Third Countries and Canada; this is a progressive proposal from the EU Commission, through bilateral agreements. The US sees this as an agreement with 28 nations, but for the EU, it is a single agreement, under the entity of the EU as a whole.

The WTO has 163 members, and they have multilateral and polylateral agreements, but are not as open as the EU is; the case of ASEAN is similar to that of the WTO. The European Union wants to achieve multilateral agreements, as the WTO has, and they have accorded this goal top priority status. At present, the EU is creating lateral agreements, and we may observe how the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, are trying to accomplish agreements all over the world. With the WTO, all member states have to agree when they want to accept new agreements and this is a difficult commitment to meet, which is why the EU wants to create its own consensus.

The EU-Mediterranean agreement: Turkey has a custom union but is not an EU member state and as such only has implements. It calls external tariffs, which means that if we purchase goods from Texas, USA, the price will be same in Istanbul, Prague or Germany; this is a major step forward for the EU in terms of enabling access for Turkey to join with the market of the EU. There are other such agreements with other countries.

Western Balkans stabilisation agreement: The EU is preparing for the future membership of the following countries: Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus. Free trade membership is a lower level than Customer Union, but they have entered into a negotiation process. Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan can apply for the basic agreement but have put this on hold owing to a perceived threat from the Russian Federation; nevertheless, all three states are anticipating joining the EU, or at least having some profit agreements with it. Kazakhstan wants to restrict their economy and wants to create their own tariff system through the WTO, but there are serious difficulties with this because trade and politics cannot be separated.

At present, the largest emerging economies are those of Brazil, China and India. In the case of Brazil, trade perspective does not exist but they are in the Mercosur bloc and seek agreements on a state by state basis. In Argentina, beef is a problematic area – very competitive and expensive within the EU and only possible to produce under high tariffs; moreover, France and Ireland take every opportunity to sabotage agreements with Argentina. Concerning Mercosur, we may observe that this regional bloc in South America will be functioning at 100%, owing to the competing national interests of each member state.

India is seeking to achieve self-access as independent providers to the United Kingdom; an example of this is that a huge amount of analysts go to the UK,  quickly obtain jobs and VISAs, and settle there. However, the UK is in the process of leaving the European Union and will not have any of the agreements they had with Third Countries and with India as a member state, but will have to create their own ones. China does not have a full custom union agreement with EU but is seeking to at least conclude investment agreements. There are also negotiations taking place with Canada, but Canada has to ratify any agreements in its parliament, and the question remains: would they negotiate with EU?

South Korea and EU: exports are rising by 30% and the market relationship with South Korea is on the highest level that it has ever been.