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What if Libra disrupted the financial system?

13-09-2019

Facebook’s envisaged cryptocurrency project Libra may enable a way of more connected, digital banking. However, it also triggered a debate around the added value of cryptocurrencies. What would change for banks, businesses and consumers with the new digital currency?

Facebook’s envisaged cryptocurrency project Libra may enable a way of more connected, digital banking. However, it also triggered a debate around the added value of cryptocurrencies. What would change for banks, businesses and consumers with the new digital currency?

International trade [What Think Tanks are thinking]

13-09-2019

The escalating trade conflict between the United States (US) and China has dampened economic growth in the European Union and other regions of the world, analysts say, and poses a further question mark over the continuity of the post-Cold War rules-based order. The EU is seeking to position itself as a defender of the multilateral rules-based system in the context of growing economic nationalism. The EU will need to coordinate closely its trade and climate policies, and think clearly about how best ...

The escalating trade conflict between the United States (US) and China has dampened economic growth in the European Union and other regions of the world, analysts say, and poses a further question mark over the continuity of the post-Cold War rules-based order. The EU is seeking to position itself as a defender of the multilateral rules-based system in the context of growing economic nationalism. The EU will need to coordinate closely its trade and climate policies, and think clearly about how best to defend its economic interests in the challenging new geopolitical environment facing the incoming European Commission. This note offers links to a series of recent commentaries and reports from major international think tanks and research institutes on international trade policy. More reports on trade can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are thinking' published in June 2018.

International Agreements in Progress: The trade pillar of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement

30-08-2019

On 28 June 2019, the European Union (EU) and the four founding members of Mercosur (the 'Southern Common Market') – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – reached an 'agreement in principle' on a free trade agreement (FTA) as part of a wider association agreement (AA). However, spurred by massive destruction of the Brazilian Amazon through large-scale forest fires, EU policy-makers and international environmental groups alike have since become increasingly vocal in expressing concerns about the ...

On 28 June 2019, the European Union (EU) and the four founding members of Mercosur (the 'Southern Common Market') – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – reached an 'agreement in principle' on a free trade agreement (FTA) as part of a wider association agreement (AA). However, spurred by massive destruction of the Brazilian Amazon through large-scale forest fires, EU policy-makers and international environmental groups alike have since become increasingly vocal in expressing concerns about the deal's potential environmental and climate change implications. EU farmers' associations with defensive interests have fiercely criticised what they have referred to as a 'cars for cows' deal. On the other hand, the deal has been warmly welcomed by EU industry associations and several sub-sectors of EU agriculture with offensive interests. If tariff and non-tariff barriers are eliminated or substantially lowered, the potential for growth in bi-regional trade in goods, services and investment is significant. In addition, the FTA would be a strong signal in favour of the rules-based multilateral trading system and against power politics in trade. After the agreement's legal review and translation, it will be presented to the Council for signature. It will then be submitted to the European Parliament for consent. Once the Council has adopted the decision concluding the agreement, it will be presented to EU Member State parliaments for ratification. First edition. The 'International Agreements in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the process, from initial discussions through to ratification.

Human rights in EU trade agreements: The human rights clause and its application

08-07-2019

The practice of linking human rights with trade liberalisation has gained ground among many trade partners. Not only the EU, but also other important trade powers, such as the US and Canada, embed human and labour-rights provisions in their new trade agreements. For the EU, this ensues inevitably from the normative vision underlying all of its external policies, as enshrined in the Treaties. Accordingly, the EU has committed to respecting and promoting human rights and democracy through its external ...

The practice of linking human rights with trade liberalisation has gained ground among many trade partners. Not only the EU, but also other important trade powers, such as the US and Canada, embed human and labour-rights provisions in their new trade agreements. For the EU, this ensues inevitably from the normative vision underlying all of its external policies, as enshrined in the Treaties. Accordingly, the EU has committed to respecting and promoting human rights and democracy through its external action. The main mechanism for incorporating human rights into the EU's bilateral agreements consists of an 'essential elements' human rights clause that enables one party to take appropriate measures in case of serious breaches by the other party. The clause, which also covers democratic principles and often the rule of law, is more than just a legal mechanism enabling the unilateral suspension of trade commitments in times of crisis. It enshrines the parties' commitments to human rights and thus puts EU relations with third countries on a solid regulatory base, opening the path to dialogue and cooperation on human rights issues. So far, the EU has clearly preferred a constructive engagement to more restrictive measures, and has not activated the clause to suspend trade preferences under any of its trade agreements. Civil society and the European Parliament have, on the other hand, encouraged the European Commission to use the clause in a more robust way in order to respond to serious breaches of human rights and democratic principles. This briefing focuses exclusively on the EU's bilateral and regional free trade agreements. EU unilateral human and labour rights provisions in trade arrangements are addressed in a separate briefing. A forthcoming EPRS paper will provide more information about labour rights (many of which also form part of the human rights enshrined in international conventions) in EU bilateral agreements.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: International trade and globalisation

28-06-2019

The European Community was founded on the belief that economic integration leads to peace and economic prosperity. Trade is therefore a fundamental part of the identity of the European Union (EU) today. Given the success of the internal market in fostering the longest period of European peace in modern history, the EU considers itself an example of the benefits of trade, globalisation and economic openness. International trade policy is an exclusive competence of the EU, and with the combined economic ...

The European Community was founded on the belief that economic integration leads to peace and economic prosperity. Trade is therefore a fundamental part of the identity of the European Union (EU) today. Given the success of the internal market in fostering the longest period of European peace in modern history, the EU considers itself an example of the benefits of trade, globalisation and economic openness. International trade policy is an exclusive competence of the EU, and with the combined economic weight of its Member States behind it, the EU is one of the key players in global trade. Yet trade policy is about more than stability and growth for the EU, as it is also used to encourage poor countries to develop, foster international alliances and support fundamental values in the world. A strong partner in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the EU backs an international trading system based on rules rather than might. The benefits of globalisation and international trade have nevertheless been questioned in recent years, including within the EU. This has led it to reinvigorate its trade policy, in particular by presenting a new trade strategy and a reflection paper on harnessing globalisation. The EU's new 'trade for all' strategy addresses criticisms and focuses on making its trade policy more effective, transparent and value-based. In line with this strategy, the EU has pursued ongoing trade negotiations with renewed vigour and launched new trade and investment talks, resulting in state-of-the-art agreements with countries such as Canada and Japan. The EU faces uncertain times due to major shifts in international trade, coming from both the West and the East. In response, it seeks to promote economic openness, standing up for its values and protecting its interests. For example, the EU has retaliated against United States (US) steel tariffs and continues to defend the rules-based international trading order. Contentious trading practices on the part of third countries, including China, have led the EU to modernise its trade defence instruments, prepare a new foreign investment screening mechanism and seek a reform of the WTO. The EU is likely to continue this approach in the coming term, pursuing international cooperation and new agreements, possibly also at a continental level with Africa, and striving to protect its citizens and businesses from economic harm. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

Key issues in the European Council

20-06-2019

The European Council Oversight Unit within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) monitors and analyses the activities, commitments and impact of the European Council, so as to maximize parliamentary understanding of the political dynamics of this important institution. This new EPRS publication, 'Key issues in the European Council', which will be updated quarterly to coincide with European Council meetings, aims to provide an overview of the institution’s activities on major EU issues ...

The European Council Oversight Unit within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) monitors and analyses the activities, commitments and impact of the European Council, so as to maximize parliamentary understanding of the political dynamics of this important institution. This new EPRS publication, 'Key issues in the European Council', which will be updated quarterly to coincide with European Council meetings, aims to provide an overview of the institution’s activities on major EU issues. It analyses nine policy areas, explaining the legal and political background and the main priorities and orientations defined by the European Council. It also assesses the results of European Council involvement to date and identifies future challenges in the various policy fields.

European Council conclusions - A rolling check-list of commitments to date

14-06-2019

The role of the European Council – to 'provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development' and to define its 'general political directions and priorities' – has evolved rapidly over the last decade. Since June 2014, the European Council Oversight Unit within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS), the European Parliament's in-house research service and think tank, has been monitoring and analysing the European Council's delivery on commitments made in the conclusions of ...

The role of the European Council – to 'provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development' and to define its 'general political directions and priorities' – has evolved rapidly over the last decade. Since June 2014, the European Council Oversight Unit within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS), the European Parliament's in-house research service and think tank, has been monitoring and analysing the European Council's delivery on commitments made in the conclusions of its meetings. This overview of European Council conclusions is a new, updated and more comprehensive edition of the Rolling Check-List, which has been published regularly by the European Council Oversight Unit since 2014. It distinguishes between four types of European Council conclusions (commitments, reviews, endorsements and statements) and indicates the follow-up given to calls for action made by EU leaders. It also offers an introductory analysis of each policy area, highlighting the background to the main orientations given by the European Council, as well as the follow-up to them and the future challenges.

Port reception facilities for ship waste: Collecting waste from ships in ports

07-06-2019

Marine litter and pollution put the marine environment at risk. While a great proportion of marine litter originates from land-based sources, limiting waste discharges from ships also plays an essential role in efforts to preserve marine and coastal ecosystems. Based on international law, EU legislation requires vessels to bring the waste they generate on voyages to waste-reception facilities in port, and obliges EU ports to provide such facilities to ships using the port. Despite these developments ...

Marine litter and pollution put the marine environment at risk. While a great proportion of marine litter originates from land-based sources, limiting waste discharges from ships also plays an essential role in efforts to preserve marine and coastal ecosystems. Based on international law, EU legislation requires vessels to bring the waste they generate on voyages to waste-reception facilities in port, and obliges EU ports to provide such facilities to ships using the port. Despite these developments, discharges at sea continue. In January 2018, the European Commission put forward a new legislative proposal seeking to improve the collection of ship waste while ensuring efficient maritime transport operations in ports. Interinstitutional negotiations concluded on 13 December 2018. The final text was adopted by the Parliament on 13 March 2019 and then by the Council on 29 March. The Directive was then signed on 17 April by the presidents of the two institutions and will be published in the Official Journal shortly.

Peace and Security in 2019: Evaluating EU efforts to support peace in Colombia

03-06-2019

This second thematic study in the Peace and Security series focuses on European Union (EU) peace support efforts in Colombia. The series will make an annual evaluation of EU performance in the field of peace and security in a specific geographical region. This study evaluates EU engagement during the 50-year conflict in Colombia, and focuses on peacebuilding since the historic 2016 final agreement between the government and the main armed group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP ...

This second thematic study in the Peace and Security series focuses on European Union (EU) peace support efforts in Colombia. The series will make an annual evaluation of EU performance in the field of peace and security in a specific geographical region. This study evaluates EU engagement during the 50-year conflict in Colombia, and focuses on peacebuilding since the historic 2016 final agreement between the government and the main armed group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). This is a country where the EU has mobilised a large spectrum of civilian instruments: bilateral and multilateral diplomacy; humanitarian and development aid; and trade relations. After placing the conflict in its geopolitical context, this evaluation analyses the EU approach to and implementation of support to peace in Colombia, the European Parliament's contribution, risks since the signature of the peace agreement, and ways to mitigate them. A parallel study, published separately, provides an overview of current EU action on peace and security and introduces the 2019 Normandy Index. The studies have been drafted with a view to their presentation at the Normandy World Peace Forum, in June 2019.

Balanced and fairer world trade defence: EU, US and WTO perspectives

29-05-2019

This workshop of the Committee on International Trade discussed recent developments in trade defence legislation and practice from the perspectives of the EU, the USA and the WTO. A set of trade defence rules have been agreed in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in particular on anti-dumping, anti-subsidies and safeguards. The WTO also provides a dispute settlement system for cases brought forward by its members. The EU has recently adopted two sets of new legislation on Trade ...

This workshop of the Committee on International Trade discussed recent developments in trade defence legislation and practice from the perspectives of the EU, the USA and the WTO. A set of trade defence rules have been agreed in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in particular on anti-dumping, anti-subsidies and safeguards. The WTO also provides a dispute settlement system for cases brought forward by its members. The EU has recently adopted two sets of new legislation on Trade Defence Instruments (TDI), known as ‘TDI methodology’ and ‘TDI modernisation’. These new rules aim at enhancing the EU’s trade defence, without deviating from its commitment to an open economic environment set in an international rules based order. The US has its own rules and practice for trade defence and continues to distinguish between countries having a market economy and those who don’t - a difference abandoned by the EU in its latest reform. Moreover, the Trump Administration has imposed many new tariffs on foreign imports, often based on the national security exception provided by the WTO - a justification contested by most of the countries targeted. Furthermore, the US expressed concerns about the system of dispute settlement in the WTO, blocking nominations to its Appellate Body. Experts gave their views on whether all these recent developments are contributing to an international trade defence regime that is ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’, taking into account the different perspectives.

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Erdal YALCIN, Hannes WELGE, André SAPIR, Petros C. MAVROIDIS

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