Informal Foreign Affairs Council (Trade): 25th February 2016

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry)
My noble Friend the Minister of State for Trade and Investment (Lord Maude of Horsham) has today made the following statement.

I represented the UK at the informal EU Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) in Amsterdam on 2 February 2016. A summary of those main discussions follows.

China Market Economy Status (MES)

Trade Commissioner Malmstrom presented the arguments on both sides of the EU granting China “market economy status” (MES) within the WTO and set out how to do so would change the methodology for calculating new anti-dumping measures. The Commission would carry out further impact assessment work on this matter and continue to consider the different approaches the EU could take to granting MES to China.

Discussion revolved around the need for good evidence gathering and analysis, and consideration of how to protect a sufficiently wide range of EU industries going forward from any unfair competition.

I said that if we wanted China to abide by its international obligations, then we needed to do the same. That said, the EU was right to continue to explore how to tackle unfair trade and to continue encouraging the Chinese to address domestic distortions and overcapacity, notably in the steel sector.


Malmstrom said conclusion by the end of the Obama Administration would require us to address all but the most sensitive “endgame” issues before the summer. Progress had been better in some areas than others. The Commissioner referred to a possible “stock-take” before the summer. It was within the context of tough negotiations on procurement with the US and others that the Commission had revised its proposal for an International Procurement Instrument (IPI) which would be considered by future Trade FACs.

All member states spoke in favour of an ambitious and balanced agreement. I said the US seemed genuine about wanting a deal this year and that we should seize the opportunity lest it disappear for some time.

The WTO Agenda

The Commissioner said that the outcome of Nairobi had surpassed expectations, demonstrating that the WTO could still deliver. Discussions in Davos had confirmed this view. It was in the EU’s interest to try to reinforce the multilateral agenda but there was a need for debate on which issues to pursue and how. The Commissioner mentioned digital trade and e-commerce, investment and competition as possibilities, preferably for multilateral negotiations; open plurilaterals were the next best option. Member states broadly welcomed the Commissioner’s assessment.

Member states also underlined the importance of WTO members ratifying and implementing of the agreement on trade facilitation, agreed at the Bali Ministerial in 2013. Around a further 40 ratifications are needed for the new agreement to enter into force.