EUKIT, the ESCI-UPF Jean Monnet Module on “Knowledge and Innovation for the European Trade Challenges”, organized a talk with Patricia Garcia-Duran about the EU Trade Policy and the changes it has faced over the last years.
Patricia Garcia-Duran was the key speaker of the session “From Policy to Politics. Why did the EU Common Trade Policy become so relevant?”. Garcia-Duran is a professor of the Department of Economic History, Institutions and Policy and World Economy at Universitat de Barcelona. She has widely worked on trade policy from a non-exclusive economic angle but an institutionally based focus. She defines herself as an interdisciplinary researcher specialized in International Economic Relations. Lately, she has published Politicization of EU Trade Policy Across Time and Space (2020).
At the beginning of the talk, professor Garcia-Duran shed light on the reasons that explain why the interest in EU Common Trade Policy has turned strongly salient nowadays. Only 20 years ago, it was considered a very technical policy and was not an object of public attention. What has changed? As she expounded, there are three main factors. The first one is the new role of civil society organizations, which were legitimated across Europe after the Berlin Wall fall. Moreover, new technologies allowed them to reach and impact people in a different way than before.
The second factor Garcia-Duran mentioned is the new and enlarged trade conception that emerged after the globalization process. Today, when we think about a trade negotiation we do not only consider tariffs or quotas, but also standards and regulations, quality and safety requirements. Since the Korean FTA, the first deep integration agreement, in the EU trade negotiations have been understood as accepting other countries’ exigencies and norms regarding standards and guessing how this would affect the European requirements.
However, the salient interest of the EU Trade Policy has not occurred before the negotiations on TTIP. The third factor was that the US was perceived as a more bargaining power than the EU, so the agreement was thought to lower the European standards, and people feared that TTIP could have called into question the EU values. These three factors combined explain the public outcry against TTIP and the politicization of the EU Trade Policy.
Later on, Patricia Garcia-Duran analyzed how COVID-19 affected the EU trade strategy. As she said, the pandemia has proved that the EU Trade Policy is resilient. One of the lessons learnt from this crisis is that closing ourselves was not the solution. Self-sufficiency was not the way to stop the pandemic onslaught. The EU realized that diversification and multilateralism are far more effective than protectionism.
At the end of the session, which was very participative, the professor ventured what will be the EU role in the geoeconomics chessboard. She considers that the EU has to play an important role in the race for the world’s leadership. Both the US and China are interested in achieving EU support to maintain –or change– the world’s balance. And according to Garcia-Duran, the EU will not get married either with one or the other but will seek multilateralism promotion.
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