EFTA Parliamentarians discuss the impact of COVID-19 on trade and global value chains

Published 08-06-2020
On 8 June, the EFTA Parliamentary Committee (EFTA PC) convened through videoconference under the Chairmanship of Svein Roald Hansen, Member of the Norwegian Parliament. The parliamentarians met to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on trade and global value chains and to prepare for the exchange with the EFTA Ministers later in the day. Members of the EFTA Consultative Committee were also invited to take part in the meeting.

The Parliamentary Committee was joined by two external speakers. “We will discuss later today with the EFTA Ministers the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ongoing EFTA trade negotiations. The pandemic has shown how interlinked our countries are with the EU. I am therefore looking forward to discussing how the EU sees the impact of the pandemic on its own trade policy,” Chair Svein Roald Hansen said.

Sandra Gallina, Deputy Director General of DG TRADE, European Commission, outlined her views on international trade, global value chains and how the EU intends to adapt its trade policy amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

“In terms of Free Trade Agreements, there are mainly two areas that needs to be improved. First, is the enforcement. We need to have better enforcement procedures for our multilateral and bilateral arrangements and agreements. Secondly, sustainability in trade is a major point. Sustainability means to create truly resilient economies with supply chains that are not too fragile,” said Gallina about free trade in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The presentation by Gallina was followed by a fruitful exchange of views with the parliamentarians on how trade policies are developed and how trade can be a part of the solution in the economic aftermath of the pandemic.

Following the insights provided by Gallina, Simon Evenett, Professor of International Trade and Economic Development at the University of St. Gallen, gave a presentation on global value chains in a COVID-19 world and its aftermath. Evenett argued that repatriating industries will not be the appropriate response to cope with the crisis and to prevent future possible shortages of critical goods. He further stressed that it was a misconception to believe that European and EFTA States economies were relying heavily on China to source their medical equipment; data shows a different picture. Afterwards, the parliamentarians discussed how the EFTA free trade network allows for the diversification of value chains and for the secure supply of critical goods.

At their internal meetings, the parliamentarians exchanged views on the recent political developments in their respective countries. Most of the EFTA countries are now in the middle of their deconfinement procedures and are easing the measures that were put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Lastly, the Committee prepared for the later informal meeting with the EFTA Ministers where the topics for discussion are the recovery of the EFTA States’ economies, the re-building of the EU internal market and the EFTA States trade policy.

The next meeting of the Parliamentarian Committee is planned to take place on 27 October 2020 in Geneva on the margins of the autumn ministerial meeting, and in relation to the celebrations of the EFTA 60th anniversary.

 

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