Brussels furious as Macron orders ‘protectionist’ EU trade reform

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Emmanuel Macron will push the EU to boost trade defences and fight back competition from China in a move attacked by European rivals as ‘politics at its worst’.

The French President is ready to make a list of demands calling for tough action on trade in a bid to deliver on his election promise to defend citizens against globalisation.

Europhile Emmanuel Macron, who saw off competition from Front National’s Marine Le Pen, is reportedly hoping his success in beating populism will grant him favour with the EU.

The two-day summit will turn to trade on Friday and Mr Macron is determined to steer the EU’s policy on the issue and push his agenda to punish social, fiscal and environmental dumping.

He is being backed by Germany and Italy who are pushing for the power to screen foreign investments to guard against cheap Chinese imports.

But he faces opposition from Sweden, Finland and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom who is against controls that could amount to protectionism.

The EU has championed free trade as a counterweight to a more protectionist stance of US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to slap tariffs on steel imports, but the bloc’s emphasis is now as much on “fair” as “free” trade.

France will call for screening of Chinese investments, a push against dumping and reciprocal access to public procurement markets.

One French official told Politico: “The president led a campaign that was very engaged towards Europe by insisting on the theme of a Europe that protects.

“But Europe can only be supported and understood if it brings a certain protection which is felt as such, which is visible and concrete, to our fellow citizens.”

Christofer Fjellner, a Swedish MEP from the centre-right European People’s Party, branded Mr Macron’s proposals “politics at its worst.”

He said: “The Chinese market for investment is not open for European businesses, that’s the real problem. But by adding another layer of protectionism, you won’t solve that issue.

“We just had a debate on the lack of investment … putting a burden on investment sounds plain stupid.”

EU lawmakers proposed toughening new rules to guard against cheap Chinese imports on Tuesday in a vote exposing a shift to a more guarded stance towards free trade in Europe.

The European Parliament’s international trade committee voted overwhelmingly in favour of a text that would give the EU greater scope to impose duties on products coming from countries where the state interferes with the economy.

An EU-China summit this month was overshadowed by divisions on trade, with the EU still wrestling over Beijing’s demand that it be treated as a “market economy” 15 years after it joined the World Trade Organisation.

For now, China is treated as a special case in which dumping is established if the export prices of a given product are lower than those of a third country, such as the US.

Written by Katie Mansfield on

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