RIGA - On March 2-3, Valletta in Malta hosted the Informal Meeting of EU Trade Ministers.
Representatives from the Member States discussed current developments in international trade and challenges that the EU might face in the future when implementing its external trade policy.
The Parliamentary Secretary of the Latvian Foreign Ministry, Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica, informed Ministers that Latvia has become the first EU Member State to ratify the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and she called on the other EU Member States to start their national procedures for the ratification of the agreement. CETA shows how much significance the EU attaches to transatlantic relations, Kalnina-Lukasevica emphasized.
Representatives from the Member States as well as the European Commission and the European Parliament appreciated what Latvia has achieved in opening the ratification process at the level of national parliaments. A number of the Member States confirmed that they are planning to complete ratifications in their parliaments within the next few months.
Ministers also discussed possible future steps to establish a multilateral investment court system. In response to increasing public concerns about the system of investment protection, especially the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, consultations have been opened on the reform of the system.
The Parliamentary Secretary stressed that CETA brings in new provisions which uphold the right of the States to exercise their regulatory function in public interests, as well as improving the process of investment dispute settlement. These provisions can provide a new standard and model on the global scale, Kalnina-Lukasevica noted. By signing CETA, the EU and Canada have committed themselves to start work on the establishment of a multilateral investment court.
At the meeting, Kalnina-Lukasevica expressed support for the proposal to reform, with the aim of upholding the rights of the States, the system for the resolution of international investment disputes, including the enhancement of an investment court system that would ensure investment dispute resolution in as coherent, transparent and impartial manner as possible.
The participants of the meeting exchanged views on amendments to EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy methodologies and the calculation methods for anti-dumping duties, in view of the conditions for China's membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Kalnina-Lukasevica pointed out that changes in EU legislation should retain instruments to protect EU companies, including Latvian businesses, through ensuring fair trade. At the same time, the Parliamentary Secretary stressed that the outcome of the agreement should be balanced and changes in methodology should not entail disproportionate costs to the users of imported goods and manufacturers processing imported raw materials.
The ministers shared views on preparations for the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) this coming December. The Parliamentary Secretary expressed support for an open and rules-based international trade and noted that, in order to build trust in a multilateral trade system, the next WTO Ministerial Conference should achieve concrete agreements, for instance, on e-commerce, on stimulating the involvement of small and medium-sized businesses in trade, and in matters of the regulation of fisheries subsidies.
EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom informed the Ministers about the Commission's proposal to introduce the EU's autonomous trade measures for Ukraine in order to promote the EU-Ukrainian trade and business cooperation. The Commissioner also called on the Member States to support the proposal on assistance to Ukraine in view of its economic situation.
The Informal Meetings of Trade Ministers are held every six months in the country presiding at the EU Council.