Europe set to launch trade talks with GCC

European Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen arrives in the UAE on Sunday ahead of a trade and investment dialogue between the EU and GCC due to start in May.

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Europe is set to launch a trade push in the Arabian Gulf as the rise of protectionism under US president Donald Trump spurs new alliances.

European Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen was due to arrive in the UAE yesterday ahead of a trade and investment dialogue between the EU and GCC due to start in May.

The election of Mr Trump in the US, the planned exit of the UK from the European Union and the rise of populist political movements around the world have unravelled long-standing global trading relationships and spurred the creation of new ones.

In an exclusive interview with The National ahead of his arrival in the region, the former prime minister of Finland who is now responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness at the EC, said Europe should not be distracted by events in the US and UK.

“The future of Europe cannot be judged by looking at the USA or the UK. While we need to understand what is going on in other parts of the world, I think we need to focus less on comments from outside Europe and more on what Europe is actually doing.”

The GCC is the EU’s fourth largest export market and in May the pair will start a trade and investment dialogue that aims to deepen ties. The agenda includes support for SMEs, cooperation on research and collaboration in sectors such as renewable energy, education and health.

Regional economies are being courted by many of the world’s largest exporters as decades of global trade liberalisation is threatened by the emergence of protectionist trade policies.

Such policies threaten to dent global growth, stoke inflation and hurt living standards, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has warned.

President Trump set the tone for his administration’s America First trade policy by withdrawing the US from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership on his first day in office.

The man tipped to be Mr Trump’s pick for US ambassador to the EU did little to reassure Brussels when he predicted that the euro could collapse within 18 months. Professor Ted Malloch told the BBC in an interview he would “short the euro” – that is to bet the currency would lose value.

Mr Katainen said he was “very surprised” to read Professor Malloch’s comments.

“We have no concerns about this,” he said. “The European economy is entering its fifth year of consecutive growth and our projections for the coming years are positive.”

He said that EU wanted to have a good working relationship with Mr Trump but stressed the need for trade rules.

“Europe strongly believes that rules-based trade is an important and valuable tool to boost competitiveness for ourselves and our partners while ensuring high levels of environmental and social protection, so that trade is good for us today and good for our children tomorrow.”

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