EU must continue liberal trade policies

EU leaders met last weekend for an emergency summit in Brussels about the global economic decline. I was greatly pleased to see that EU leaders committed themselves to a multilateral free trade approach, rejecting protectionism and reaffirming their commitments to the European Single Market and sending a powerful message to our partners across the Atlantic.

Robert Sturdy MEP

EU leaders met last weekend for an emergency summit in Brussels about the global economic decline. I was greatly pleased to see that EU leaders committed themselves to a multilateral free trade approach, rejecting protectionism and reaffirming their commitments to the European Single Market and sending a powerful message to our partners across the Atlantic.

It is crucial to the future of the world economy that we maintain liberal policies; we must learn from the lessons of the Great Depression of the 1930s and emerge stronger on the other side.

Yet in times of economic crisis similar to which we are now experiencing, it becomes all too easy to turn a blind eye to those living in regions which are less fortunate than our own. One can become anaesthetised by repeated headlines of doom and gloom and not consider that in faraway continents, people are still struggling to have their fair share of the globalisation pie.


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For these less developed countries, free trade has become even more urgent; if developed countries retreat behind the walls of protectionism they stand to lose much too, a particularly bitter injustice for them considering it was the developed world which created this mess.

I was delighted with the outcome last week's marathon four hour voting session of the European Parliament's International Trade Committee, which I represent as a coordinator for the EPP-ED group. MEPs were voting on a series of resolutions regarding the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) currently being negotiated by the EU with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

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I want to do all I can to help these countries get a fair deal. EPAs are designed to ensure that ACP countries can continue to enjoy unhindered and protection free access to EU markets within the framework of the Word Trade Organisation.

The benefits of open markets and the opportunities it can deliver to the ACP are huge, as well as liberating. EPAs will form the first stage of incorporating the ACP into the world economy, fostering agricultural development and industry diversification.

This represents the best chance in a generation to restructure ACP trade relations, making certain that where previously ACP nations were unable to utilise trade as a vehicle for development, they will now be able to build a sustainable partnership within the EU.

*In my last column I reported on the European Commission's proposal to force member states to establish a fishing quota solely for recreational fisherman. To propose regulation that not only complicates current legislation, but also targets an innocent minority that enjoy angling for pleasure, was yet another example of the Commission's floundering attempts at regulation. Following intense lobbying by myself and my colleagues, Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg informed the Fisheries Committee that he had no intention of bringing recreational fishermen under the scope of the CFP.

I was delighted to learn that the Commissioner was very clear in ruling out any extension to "recreational anglers who catch a few kilos of fish, even recovery stocks like cod, and take it home for their own use." He went on to promise that he would fine tune the legislation so that its sole targets are sea anglers who catch and sell recovery stocks for profit, a decision I think that all of us who enjoy fishing the region's seas will welcome.

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