Future of Irish and EU trade clouded in uncertainty - Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald MEP today (Friday) hosted a seminar entitled “EU Trade Amidst Global Uncertainty” with Commissioner Phil Hogan as the keynote speaker, which focused on the growing uncertainty that businesses face when trading on EU and global markets.
“Irish and EU businesses face a range of unpredictable factors from Brexit to the increasing threat of trade tariffs to restrictions as a result of the Coronavirus,” said Ms. Fitzgerald.
“As a small open economy, trade is one of the bedrocks of success for the Irish economy. However, Irish businesses face an uncertain trading environment almost every way they turn - the future relationship with the UK is still unclear; the US under Trump continues to take a tough line on trade with the EU; and China’s trade policy is still marred by potential unfair trading practices.
“The EU has long prided itself on the principle of open borders. But the benefits of globalisation and international trade have been questioned and criticised by some in recent years, including within the EU. Rising protectionism from within and outside the EU will inevitably make us poorer.
“According to the European Commission, about 30 million jobs and over 600,000 SMEs in the EU depend on exports. Additionally, imports have lowered the prices of goods and services and increased choices for consumers as well as businesses.
“The spread of coronavirus now brings added uncertainty for Irish businesses. It has completely disrupted our whole trading system and our way of doing business. Given the risks posed by the Coronavirus, economic openness between businesses and countries can no longer operate as usual. We need to be prepared for further disruptions and work with business to adapt in the best way possible.
“With Brexit trade talks now underway, there has probably never been as much political focus on an EU trade negotiation in history. Prime Minister Johnson continues to play strongman politics by threatening to walk away from the talks in June if no progress has been made. But the EU side, represented by Commissioner Hogan and Michel Barnier, has taken a rational and constructive approach.
“It is in everyone’s interest that we get the closest possible trade deal with the UK. But such a deal must be accompanied by level playing field arrangements on regulation if we are to have open and fair trade between both sides.
“Despite the global uncertainty around trade, it is encouraging that the EU continues to pursue an active trade policy, recently agreeing state of the art deals with countries such as Canada and Japan. The EU is currently negotiating new trade deals with the likes of Australia and New Zealand.
“Market diversification will be crucial for Irish businesses going forward, particularly given the risks of global uncertainty. To prepare for the headwinds of Brexit and ongoing trade disputes, Irish businesses need to invest in new markets all over the world.”