STRASBOURG, France – The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, asked on Wednesday that trade deals with Mexico and the South American sub-regional bloc Mercosur be completed by the end of the year, as he gave his annual State of the European Union address.
Juncker said a similar deal with Canada had just been closed and would be provisionally applied from next week, adding that the EU had reached a political agreement with Japan to establish a new economic partnership.
“By the end of the year, we have a good chance of doing the same with Mexico and South American countries,” he said, after praising that “partners across the globe are lining up at our door to conclude trade agreements with us.”
Speaking to the European Parliament, Juncker said the EU also sought to create economic deals with Australia and New Zealand, insisting he wanted them to be finished before the end of this mandate and negotiated with full transparency.
The Commissioner left clear that Europe was not naive and would defend its strategic interests with a framework to screen foreign investments and ensure they are carried out transparently.
“It is a political responsibility to know what is going on in our own backyard so that we can protect our collective security if needed,” he said.
He said trade was not an abstract concept, and that in practice it meant jobs and new opportunities for European companies, no matter their size.
Each billion euros worth of exports represented 14,000 additional jobs in the EU, he added.
“Trade is about exporting our standards, be they social or environmental standards, data protection or food safety requirements,” said Juncker.
In this context, he asked for greater transparency in the EU’s decision-making process and that the European, national and regional parliaments be kept fully informed from the start on trade deal negotiations.
He said the European Commission would fully publish all draft negotiating mandates that were proposed to the Council of the European Union.
“Gone are the days of no transparency. Gone are the days of rumors, of incessantly questioning the Commission’s motives,” Juncker said.