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Brussels prioritises WTO reform in newly announced trade plans

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Brussels prioritises WTO reform in newly announced trade plans
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World Trade Organization reform will be one of the European Union's top priorities over the next few years, according to the European Commission.

Valdis Dombrovskis, the Commissioner for Trade, told reporters on Thursday that he wanted the EU to "lead global efforts to reform the WTO".

The announcement was part of a European Commission announcement setting out its trade strategy for the coming years, which also included two other key objectives to strengthen the post-pandemic economic recovery and reach carbon neutrality by making the Paris climate agreement an essential element of future trade deals.

"The challenges we face require a new strategy for EU trade policy. We need open, rules-based trade to help restore growth and job creation post-COVID-19," Dombrovskis explained.

"Equally, trade policy must fully support the green and digital transformations of our economy and lead global efforts to reform the WTO. It should also give us the tools to defend ourselves when we face unfair trade practices. We are pursuing a course that is open, strategic and assertive, emphasising the EU's ability to make its own choices and shape the world around it through leadership and engagement, reflecting our strategic interests and values."

Negotiations to modernise the WTO have so far failed, with the Trump administration hampering most efforts to do so over the past four years.

But now, with Joe Biden at the helm in the US, the possibility of reforms has increased significantly, according to Guillaume van der Loo from the Egmont Institute.

"The EU and the US are on the same side on reform of the WTO and to have more modern rules on subsidies, state aid to enterprises, forced technology transfers, and of course this all relates to the concerns that both the EU and US have vis-à-vis China," van der Loo told Euronews.

Brussels also wants to ensure that the bloc's competition rules are respected by non-EU countries, especially given the newly concluded investment agreement with China, as well as looking to develop trade defence measures to protect European companies and citizens from unfair trade practices.

It also wants to expand its influence worldwide by fostering partnerships with the developing world in Africa, Latin America and Asia-Pacific.