Dombrovskis given influential trade job at EU executive

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen put former Latvian prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis in charge of the influential trade portfolio in a reshuffle forced by the departure of Irishman Phil Hogan.

FILE PHOTO: European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovski delivers a speech during a joint news conference on European Semester 2020, at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium May 20, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Von der Leyen also named Mairead McGuinness, a senior member of the European Parliament, as the new Irish commissioner for financial services and stability and capital markets.

Dombrovskis, one of three executive vice presidents among the 27 commissioners, will continue to oversee the European Union economy and attend Eurogroup meetings of euro zone finance ministers.

Ireland lost the trade portfolio after Hogan resigned following allegations he breached COVID-19 health guidelines on a trip home.

Dombrovskis was already put in temporary charge of trade and faces a busy next few months as the permanent appointee.

The bloc is locked in difficult negotiations over future ties with post-Brexit Britain, faces trade tensions with the United States, pressure to rein in China and a challenge pushing through a trade accord struck with Brazil and other Mercosur countries.

Dombrovskis will hope a transatlantic mini-deal that removes duties on U.S. lobsters can help resolve more significant differences over aircraft subsidies for Boeing BA.N and Airbus AIR.PA as well as U.S. tariffs on EU steel and aluminium - all in the run-up to the U.S. election.

The Commission also wants EU members to unite around a new leader for the World Trade Organization, for which a two-month selection process began this week, and is seeking to conclude an overall review of its trade policy.

McGuinness has been an EU lawmaker from Ireland for the Midlands–North-West constituency since 2004 and has served as the chamber’s deputy head since 2017. She is a member of Fine Gael.

Dombrovskis and McGuinness are with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest grouping in the European Parliament, which will have to vet both appointments.

Reporting by John Chalmers, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska and Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Ed Osmond