BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders are expected to encourage the bloc on Thursday to strike more free trade agreements and reject rising protectionist views, such as those of new U.S. President Donald Trump.
The leaders will not name Trump in a statement due to be issued after their summit meeting, but the message will stand in clear contrast to the U.S. president, who has withdrawn from a trans-Pacific trade alliance and promised to redraw the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
The EU leaders, meeting in Brussels, will welcome the European Parliament’s approval of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) paving the way for that deal to enter into force provisionally in the coming months.
“This is a clear sign at a time when protectionism tendencies are reappearing,” a draft of the summit conclusions reads.
The leaders will urge the Commission, which negotiates on behalf of the EU’s 28 members, to advance “resolutely” ongoing negotiations towards new free trade agreements.
EU negotiations with Japan appear closest to conclusion. The Commission has also accelerated talks to modernize an existing trade deal with Mexico and has said an agreement with the four countries of the South American trade bloc Mercosur is another priority.
The draft conclusions do include a call from EU leaders to adopt measures that would give the bloc more scope for imposing duties on products imported at excessively low prices or by companies buoyed by unfair subsidies.
The EU has been particularly active in the last couple of years setting import tariffs to limit a surge of steel from China.
The European Commission proposed in November a new way to assess whether Chinese manufacturer are exporting at unfairly low prices in response to Beijing’s demand that China not be treated as a special case.
Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Dominic Evans