BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission launched a new trade policy on Wednesday designed to connect more with a skeptical public and to conclude more free trade agreements, notably reviving talks with the United States.
The strategy to make trade policy more effective and transparent and rooted in values such as sustainable development and human rights is a response to heated protests against the planned EU-U.S. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
In the latest such protest, at least 150,000 people marched in Berlin on Saturday against TTIP, arguing it is anti-democratic and that it will lower food safety, labor and environmental standards.
“We’ve listened to the debate,” European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement.
Europeans, she said, know that trade can deliver more jobs and growth, but did not want to compromise on human rights, sustainable development and high quality regulation and public services. They also wanted to know more about negotiations.
The new policy would be aimed to ensure that trade actually delivered economic benefits, including to smaller firms, would entail publishing negotiating texts, as has been done with TTIP, and including anti-corruption rules and provisions on core labor standards in trade agreements.
The Commission, which is responsible for trade policy in the European Union, will prioritize concluding free trade deals with the United States and Japan and an investment agreement with China.
The Commission is under increased pressure to act after 12 countries around the Pacific Rim, including the United States and Japan, forged a deal to liberalize commerce
It will seek to update existing free trade agreements with Mexico and Chile and the customs union with Turkey and to open the door to negotiations with Asia-Pacific nations, such as Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia.
“This includes specifically requesting a mandate from EU member states for free trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand,” the Commission said.
Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop