A structural problem with the US deficit comes in particular from Chinese trade distortions, starting with the opacity of Chinese subsidies to state-owned enterprises. Europeans are thus actively pursuing trilateral discussions with the United States and Japan in order to obtain better notification of subsidies from WTO members, strengthen multilateral rules governing subsidies and force China to abandon its policy of forced technology transfer. The pressure exerted by Brussels at the EU-China Summit on April 9 is also in line with this: Brussels demanded that Beijing reverse these distortions and support a reform of WTO rules. Indeed, otherwise defensive EU measures would restrict access to the single market for Chinese imports, at a time when access to the US market is already limited for them. In my opinion, we must welcome this firm and balanced approach by Brussels, which attempts to bring both Washington and Beijing back to the WTO negotiating table. But in order for Beijing's commitment - to supporting these reforms - to be translated into specific concrete actions on a short-time basis, it is necessary to strengthen the European cohesion against China. This yet fragile cohesion, towards which the adoption of the European mechanism for controlling foreign investment was a significant first step, would be usefully reinforced by implementing the Commission's proposals made on March 12 in its communication "EU-China: a strategic outlook".
France was the only member to vote against opening negotiations, arguing that the EU should not negotiate with a country that has withdrawn from agreements on climate change. What does this say about the French position within the EU, especially given the EU’s obligation to align all its policies with the objectives established in the Paris Agreement?
France's position could not give rise to a veto since the opening of negotiations was decided through a qualified majority vote. It surprised the European partners all the more because this is the first time that a negotiating mandate has not been voted unanimously, at a time when, as we have just seen, the cohesion of Europeans is more than ever required. Germany is particularly reactive on this issue since it is more specifically targeted by the threat of customs duties on cars and has supported France in excluding agriculture from the negotiations.
In addition, it is important to keep in mind the short-term deadline of December 2019, by which the WTO Appellate Body of the dispute settlement mechanism will be deadlocked, if the United States persists in blocking the appointment of new judges. The risk of an even more heated trade war compels to emphasize that the transatlantic negotiation would only lead to a sectorial agreement, without the scope of the new generation trade agreements that require now to be signed exclusively with signatory states to the Paris Agreement.
Finally, Washington's persistence in wanting to include agriculture before starting negotiations still raises doubts about the possibility of an agreement and may lead in fine to ask the question of a French veto in the Council.
Nevertheless, France's position is also a reminder of the priority that must be given to multilateralism and of the need to find more coherence between European trade policy and the fight against climate change. In the short term, and in the run-up to the European elections, this allows Emmanuel Macron to give visibility to the coherence of the LREM programme. EU-wide efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will still have an only limited impact in the fight against climate change, which is by definition a global issue. Rather than opposing trade and the fight against climate change, it is now a question of promoting European standards of sustainable development through the EU's trade negotiations so that the production methods of its trading partners can also change. This is the line defended by his government since 2017 and reflected in the report on the implementation of CETA. It is therefore also a signal that France would like to see this issue included among the priorities of the next Commission.
Copyright : SAUL LOEB / AFP