The members of the European Committee of the Regions' (CoR) commission for economic policy (ECON) and the main EU territorial associations discussed the local and regional challenges of EU trade agreements as well as their transparency and democratic legitimacy with Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. The debate took place within the framework of a structured dialogue where the Commissioner announced the invitation to the CoR to become an observer to the Advisory Group on EU trade agreements.
Evidence shows that the overall benefit of global trade on economic growth and employment are unevenly dispersed and that some local economies and communities lack the necessary resilience to face the ensuing economic and technological changes brought about by globalisation. This has led to a growing concern about the impact of international trade and globalisation among local and regional authorities (LRAs) with weaker economies.
"In order to ensure that the voices of LRAs are heard we need to raise our ambition of transparency and involvement of stakeholders. Territorial impact assessments must be mandatory, as they are crucial for a sound, transparent and efficiency-based EU trade policy. This would also help allay concerns, support local and regional authorities to take part in the discussion and ensure that they have a meaningful opportunity to better prepare for potential eventualities", said Michel Delebarre (FR/PES), chair of the CoR's ECON commission and member of Dunkirk Municipal Council.
On 14 September 2017, the Commission presented its proposals for a "progressive and ambitious trade agenda" on the basis on its "trade for all
" strategy. The initiatives aim at increasing democratic legitimacy and transparency and include the creation of Advisory Group on EU trade agreements to which the European Commission will officially invite the CoR as an observer in the upcoming days.
"The world is interconnected in an unprecedented way. A car can be built with a German design, in a Mexican factory, with an American chassis and a Japanese transmission. These links cannot be undone easily, and undoing them will not solve anything. In fact, it would create more harm. Instead of hiding behind walls and borders, we need to make sure that globalisation happens the way we want it to. To do so really well, we need your help. The more engagement between local authorities and Member States, the better. This is how we can gather evidence on the positive and negative effects of EU trade policy on the ground", said Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström.
CoR members welcomed the European Commission's step to publish all of its proposals for new negotiating mandates at the same time as they are sent to the Member States. However, local and regional representatives voiced concern that the involvement of relevant regional stakeholders should not be left to the national level alone.
*Structured dialogues aim at ensuring that European associations representing local and regional authorities have regular discussions with the European Commission. Aim is to improve EU legislation by ensuring that the views of local and regional associations are taken on board before formal decision-making processes start, to ensure a better understanding of the EU’s policy guidelines and to make the EU more transparent and meaningful to its citizens. The CoR hereby acts as an intermediary, organiser and facilitator due to its strong linkage with both sides. In 2016 the committee implemented a new model linking each dialogue with one of the CoR's commissions and holding it within its commission meetings.
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