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Tale om WTO, frihandel og protektionisme ved Udenrigsministeriets handelspolitiske konference 22. juni 2016

Udenrigsministerens tale om WTO, frihandel og protektionisme ved
Udenrigsministeriets handelspolitiske konference 22. juni 2016

                                        DET TALTE ORD GÆLDER

I would like to welcome you all to our Trade Policy conference. Welcome to our distinguished guests, especially WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, Deputy USTR Michael Punke, EU General Director Jean-Luc Demarty and also to the speakers of the second panel. It is timely to ask ourselves “What’s next for Global Trade Policy?”  

 

Free trade is a hot topic: Free trade is under pressure in many places, among politicians and ordinary people in the US, Europe and in the Emerging economies. In the UK, trade is a central theme in the defining yes-no referendum tomorrow.

 

But why does free trade matter? The answer is simple: If two sides decide to close a deal, it’s to the advantage of both. Both win, both become richer. Free trade is one of the most ingenious inventions of man. History proves that wealth and human development has been propelled by free trade. And in short: If goods pass borders, there is less likelihood that soldiers will.

That will be my main messages today: Free trade matters, free trade must be promoted, and the WTO must keep delivering results – new results - to the benefit of our economies, creating jobs and growth.

***

People in many countries are becoming more sceptical. Protectionism is creeping forward - in the form of barriers and limits to free trade. The idea that open trade is a threat – and that you need to cut yourself off from the world – is wrong. It’s the opposite way around: Free trade creates growth and underpins employment. In Denmark, more than 700.000 jobs – one in four jobs – depend on our exports. Worldwide, it has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Just look at China and other Asian countries – and Africa is aiming to go next.

 

I am a free trader. But I am not - and we should not - be blind to the challenges connected with trade: Trade benefits society as a whole, not least the silent majority of consumers. But sometimes there is negative impact on some companies, workers or communities when markets open to competition.

It is an important task for governments to mitigate negative effects and assist workers to adapt to a more competitive environment. Protectionism will never be the answer – it will make us all poorer!

 

Free trade is often blamed for much misery in this world – which is completely unfair. But free trade needs a better reputation – better PR so to speak. One way to achieve this could be by identifying visible and quantifiable targets for our free trade agreements. Ambitious performance goals for our trade agreements.

 

Like in the area of climate change where hard targets have mobilised political will, I propose that we set a political target. We could agree on a “Headline Trade Goal”. Why not say that multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements over the coming 15 years should lift 200 million people out of poverty and lift GDP worldwide with 3 percent? We can always discuss the numbers but let’s be ambitious! It is clearly within reach for an ambitious international trade agenda to deliver on those goals so why not be open about it?

***

The WTO has also seen many challenges. But it is the best defence against protectionism. Here, everybody sits at the same negotiating table, setting the rules of trade, creating a level playing field, and settling disputes. The common rules of the WTO benefit all nations, in particular the Least Developed Countries of the world. But we must do more.

   

The WTO does deliver results – step by step. Trade negotiations are complicated. The WTO trade facilitation agreement from 2013 cuts red tape and delays at borders. When ratified, it will reduce trade costs up to 15%. That counts.

Last year in December, I was at the WTO ministerial conference in Nairobi. Here we agreed to eliminate export subsidies – the largest agricultural reform in 20 years and a long-lasting wish from developing countries. Also, a big group of WTO countries shook hands and decided to remove custom tariffs on a range of IT products representing 10% of world trade. That also counts.

***

The global economy is changing shape: global value chains are spreading, new economies are emerging, technology and the digital economy is transforming the way we live and trade. In the WTO, many members are engaged in bilateral and regional trade negotiations.

Firstly, this means that the WTO has to work on new  policy areas. We need to look at issues like e-commerce, investment, and at expanding the rule book of trade.  

Secondly, we have to address some of the Doha issues on their own merits. For instance, within agriculture, domestic support could be explored. I believe that we should aim for a solid package at our next ministerial conference in 2017, covering both new and old issues, with a special focus on the poorest countries. The discussion started in Nairobi, and now it’s time to focus more.

***

We can pursue trade liberalisation through several channels: Multilaterally – or plurilaterally, meaning in a group of interested WTO countries. Done smartly, these different roads can support each other and lead us to the same destination: fewer trade barriers.

Plurilateral negotiations can deliver good results. For example, the current negotiations on environmental goods can provide growth as well as environmental benefits. I would like to see an agreement this year, which would show that we can deliver.    

***

At the same time, the European Union – and Denmark as part of the EU – has an ambitious bilateral trade agenda.

The TTIP negotiations are important for both EU and the US. An agreement will set standards and give an important boost to American and European economies. And it will benefit our consumers with more choice and more money to spend. We need to get this positive message across.  

TTIP is also important politically. It will strengthen the already close ties between EU and the US.

The public debate about TTIP is very lively. This is positive, as we get the best agreement when we challenge each other – like today. But much of the debate is based on myths and not facts. Neither EU nor the US want to use TTIP to lower standards for environment, food safety or consumer protection or limit governments’ scope to regulate. These are clear red lines – and in no one’s interest.

***

In closing, let me return to the basic argument for free trade. Trade is not the problem, it’s the solution. The best way to prove that is to deliver results, to deliver better lives, and to deliver development to countries and people. How? By providing good deals that make trade easier, by setting fair rules, by upholding high standards and by keep working to include everybody. The WTO and a strong global trading system is a big part of that answer. We need more free trade – not less.

I would like to welcome you all to our Trade Policy conference. Welcome to our distinguished guests, especially WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, Deputy USTR Michael Punke, EU General Director Jean-Luc Demarty and also to the speakers of the second panel. It is timely to ask ourselves “What’s next for Global Trade Policy?”  

 

Free trade is a hot topic: Free trade is under pressure in many places, among politicians and ordinary people in the US, Europe and in the Emerging economies. In the UK, trade is a central theme in the defining yes-no referendum tomorrow.

 

But why does free trade matter? The answer is simple: If two sides decide to close a deal, it’s to the advantage of both. Both win, both become richer. Free trade is one of the most ingenious inventions of man. History proves that wealth and human development has been propelled by free trade. And in short: If goods pass borders, there is less likelihood that soldiers will.

That will be my main messages today: Free trade matters, free trade must be promoted, and the WTO must keep delivering results – new results - to the benefit of our economies, creating jobs and growth.

***

People in many countries are becoming more sceptical. Protectionism is creeping forward - in the form of barriers and limits to free trade. The idea that open trade is a threat – and that you need to cut yourself off from the world – is wrong. It’s the opposite way around: Free trade creates growth and underpins employment. In Denmark, more than 700.000 jobs – one in four jobs – depend on our exports. Worldwide, it has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Just look at China and other Asian countries – and Africa is aiming to go next.

 

I am a free trader. But I am not - and we should not - be blind to the challenges connected with trade: Trade benefits society as a whole, not least the silent majority of consumers. But sometimes there is negative impact on some companies, workers or communities when markets open to competition.

It is an important task for governments to mitigate negative effects and assist workers to adapt to a more competitive environment. Protectionism will never be the answer – it will make us all poorer!

 

Free trade is often blamed for much misery in this world – which is completely unfair. But free trade needs a better reputation – better PR so to speak. One way to achieve this could be by identifying visible and quantifiable targets for our free trade agreements. Ambitious performance goals for our trade agreements.

 

Like in the area of climate change where hard targets have mobilised political will, I propose that we set a political target. We could agree on a “Headline Trade Goal”. Why not say that multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements over the coming 15 years should lift 200 million people out of poverty and lift GDP worldwide with 3 percent? We can always discuss the numbers but let’s be ambitious! It is clearly within reach for an ambitious international trade agenda to deliver on those goals so why not be open about it?

***

The WTO has also seen many challenges. But it is the best defence against protectionism. Here, everybody sits at the same negotiating table, setting the rules of trade, creating a level playing field, and settling disputes. The common rules of the WTO benefit all nations, in particular the Least Developed Countries of the world. But we must do more.

   

The WTO does deliver results – step by step. Trade negotiations are complicated. The WTO trade facilitation agreement from 2013 cuts red tape and delays at borders. When ratified, it will reduce trade costs up to 15%. That counts.

Last year in December, I was at the WTO ministerial conference in Nairobi. Here we agreed to eliminate export subsidies – the largest agricultural reform in 20 years and a long-lasting wish from developing countries. Also, a big group of WTO countries shook hands and decided to remove custom tariffs on a range of IT products representing 10% of world trade. That also counts.

***

The global economy is changing shape: global value chains are spreading, new economies are emerging, technology and the digital economy is transforming the way we live and trade. In the WTO, many members are engaged in bilateral and regional trade negotiations.

Firstly, this means that the WTO has to work on new  policy areas. We need to look at issues like e-commerce, investment, and at expanding the rule book of trade.  

Secondly, we have to address some of the Doha issues on their own merits. For instance, within agriculture, domestic support could be explored. I believe that we should aim for a solid package at our next ministerial conference in 2017, covering both new and old issues, with a special focus on the poorest countries. The discussion started in Nairobi, and now it’s time to focus more.

***

We can pursue trade liberalisation through several channels: Multilaterally – or plurilaterally, meaning in a group of interested WTO countries. Done smartly, these different roads can support each other and lead us to the same destination: fewer trade barriers.

Plurilateral negotiations can deliver good results. For example, the current negotiations on environmental goods can provide growth as well as environmental benefits. I would like to see an agreement this year, which would show that we can deliver.    

***

At the same time, the European Union – and Denmark as part of the EU – has an ambitious bilateral trade agenda.  

The TTIP negotiations are important for both EU and the US. An agreement will set standards and give an important boost to American and European economies. And it will benefit our consumers with more choice and more money to spend. We need to get this positive message across.  

TTIP is also important politically. It will strengthen the already close ties between EU and the US.

The public debate about TTIP is very lively. This is positive, as we get the best agreement when we challenge each other – like today. But much of the debate is based on myths and not facts. Neither EU nor the US want to use TTIP to lower standards for environment, food safety or consumer protection or limit governments’ scope to regulate. These are clear red lines – and in no one’s interest.

*** 

In closing, let me return to the basic argument for free trade. Trade is not the problem, it’s the solution. The best way to prove that is to deliver results, to deliver better lives, and to deliver development to countries and people. How? By providing good deals that make trade easier, by setting fair rules, by upholding high standards and by keep working to include everybody. The WTO and a strong global trading system is a big part of that answer. We need more free trade – not less.

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