TALLINN – In foreign trade, Estonia is interested in open markets and equal competition conditions being ensured, and avoiding the closure of markets and unwanted protectionism, Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Raul Siem said on Tuesday.
Siem emphasized at an informal meeting of trade ministers of the EU Foreign Affairs Council that open trade based on rules is the best way to ensure rapid recovery of the economy after the COVID-19 crisis, spokespeople for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications said.
"Therefore, reform of the WTO and negotiations on new trade rules must remain one of the main priorities for the EU. Digital solutions and technologies have played an important role in exiting the crisis, therefore it's particularly important to make tangible progress also in the talks on e-commerce," Siem said.
According to the Estonian minister, the COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on international trade, as it showed the vulnerability of global value and supply chains.
He said that as a result of the crisis, several manufacturing companies have started to search for alternative solutions and are planning to bring their outsourced core operations back to facilities at home.
"For instance, Japan and the United States are planning to support their companies which decide to bring back their manufacturing operations from China or relocate them to third countries," the minister said.
"In the opinion of Estonia, such processes must be market-based and distorting interference by states and export restrictions are not a solution in general," he said.
According to Siem, possibilities must be found to diversify global supply chains.
"The first steps have also been taken in that direction already. The talks on a trade treaty with the countries of Mercosur are about to enter the home stretch," he said.
"In addition to countries of South America, we can also strengthen cooperation with the countries of Eastern Partnership, Africa and South Asia. For Estonian businesses changes in global supply chains entail opportunities as well," Siem said.
The EU ministers of trade also discussed the new EU trade policy strategy that is planned to be made public at the end of this year.
"Since the crisis has, among other things, confirmed the importance of digital economy and e-commerce, we consider vigorous addressing of also the trade barriers present in digital trade as important," Siem said.