Trade, the driving force behind a prosperous and resilient European Union in a fairer world 

In today’s increasingly challenging international and economic environment, trade policy plays a vital role in the European Union (EU)’s open strategic autonomy. The trade policy strengths the EU’s resilience and competitiveness, ensures a level playing field and addresses trade barriers. To support those objectives, the Belgian presidency will promote diversification of EU exports and supply chains. Special emphasis will be placed on securing access to critical raw materials and innovative technologies, which are essential to the twin transition and crucial for our open strategic autonomy.  

Trade also strengthens the EU’s ties with the rest of the world. The presidency will therefore promote an ambitious and balanced bilateral trade agenda that is open, sustainable and assertive, in line with EU values and coherent with other EU policies. The presidency will actively support further initiatives and negotiations aimed at enhancing relations with transatlantic partners, the Indo-Pacific region, Africa, and Latin America. 

In addition, the presidency will monitor and take forward legislative files relating to trade instruments or their review, including the screening of foreign direct investments (FDI) and the implementation of the Economic Security Strategy as a whole.  

Due attention will also be paid to the full and effective implementation of trade agreements. Those agreements aim to boost economic growth, job creation and sustainable development, thereby contributing to the prosperity of EU citizens and of our trading partners. SMEs, trade and sustainable development, digital trade and standard-setting will be key focus areas in tat regard. 

The effectiveness of trade policy depends on its alignment with numerous other EU policies. The presidency will therefore work to reinforce coherence, information-sharing and coordination between different EU policies and Council configurations. Within this effort, a particular focus will be placed on  geostrategic and development dimensions of trade policy. 

To further include developing countries in international trade, the Belgian presidency will work to fully implement the extended Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) and continue the discussions on the next GSP Regulation. The presidency will also be using other relevant instruments as part of that approach, including economic partnership agreements and sustainable investment facilitation agreements. 

The Belgian presidency will also finalise EU preparation and coordination ahead of the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which remains the cornerstone of the international rules-based trading system. Primary focus will be on the Organisation’s much-needed reform, with the restoration of a fully functioning dispute settlement mechanism as a key priority for the EU. The presidency will also support ongoing negotiations on digital, environmental and development-related topics.  

With regard to international investment policy, the Belgian presidency will continue efforts to reform the investment dispute resolution system, with the ultimate aim of establishing a Multilateral Investment Court. 

Last update
15 February 2024