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Bilateral Trade Relations by region | South Korea, Seoul, 22 September

Opening remarks by EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström at the ASEM Economic Ministers’ Meeting

At the ASEM Economic Ministers’ meeting, EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström spoke about the joint commitment of Asia and Europe to work towards a successful WTO Ministerial Conference in December, to resist protectionism and to ensure free and fair trade.

"Minister Paik, Thank you for hosting all of us here in Seoul today. It is an honour to be here to discuss under your chairmanship the key challenges and opportunities for trade policy in Asia and Europe.  

Mister Chairman,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With its 53 partners, ASEM is very well suited as a platform to bring us together. ASEM represents 60% of the world's population, 60% of global GDP and 60% of global trade. And this is a framework for dialogue and a laboratory for ideas. We live in challenging times and it is more timely than ever to renew its relevance and momentum.

It is a clear signal of the joint commitment of Asia and Europe to work together for prosperity and for strong and sustainable growth.   

Today we see a rise in protectionist trends that poses a threat we must fight together. But we also see citizens' scepticism towards globalisation and trade that is based on genuine concerns that require a robust answer.

For the EU side, we will not resort to protectionism. We are intensifying our ambitious trade agenda so as to support more and better jobs, and create new opportunities for our entrepreneurs. In the last 2 years we have been strongly recovering from the economic crisis, with economic growth surpassing those of the United States and Japan. We are engaging in trade bilaterally with many partners, including many of you. There has never been a more important time to support the rules-based multilateral trading system and the WTO and thus to stand up for global trade, while shaping globalisation.

Trade alone cannot be the only tool to manage globalisation – but trade policy can contribute to shaping it by ensuring a level playing field and fairness. A strong multilateral trading system has a key role to play: global rules and certainty are needed for trade to be beneficial to all.

We will soon meet in Buenos Aires for the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference. The EU is fully committed to work hard for negotiated outcomes on issues of importance for global trade. We have made proposals on fisheries subsidies, agricultural domestic support, e-commerce and other issues. We hope you can support them so that we can show WTO can still make a difference and we can together make sure that the multilateral system works and brings benefits to all.

This Economic Ministers' Meeting gives us the opportunity to pass a clear message on our common commitment towards a successful MC11, on the benefits of trade and investment for global welfare and on our determination to resist protectionism and to ensure free and fair trade. A word on trade facilitation, indeed as mentioned by the WTO representative it is a backbone of the ASEM economic pillar. For more than 20 years Asian and European Customs Authorities have successfully fostered trade facilitation under the ASEM framework. This is complementary to global efforts of course: effective implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement will contribute to transparent and efficient trade modalities that will benefit all, in particular SMEs and developing countries.

We are convinced that free and fair trade can help our economies to grow, now and long into the future. And we want to work with you.

I am pleased we agreed on a robust Ministerial statement, which covers many important issues. There is one more important issue: overcapacity. It has been mentioned in many international fora, including the last G20 Trade Ministers meeting in Shanghai. We should continue our collective efforts to address this issue.

I very much look forward to an intense day of discussions with all of you and wish everyone a successful meeting.

Thank you. "