Europe has a new face of trade: Cecilia Malmström. On September 10, the President-elect of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced his picks for 28 new Commissioners, each of which will assume a specific portfolio on November 1. Cecilia Malmström will take over the position of European Commissioner for Trade from Karel de Gucht, the Dutchman who has served in that role since 2010. Malmström is already familiar with the inner workings of the Commission, as she is currently serving as the Commissioner for Home Affairs, which oversees cooperation between EU member states on issues such as immigration, organized crime, and internal threats to security. Malmström is Swedish, and served as her country’s Minister for European Affairs from 2006 to 2010. She is a member of the center-right Liberal People’s Party, which is associated with Sweden’s historic support of free-trade policies.
Variety of FTAs in the Works
Ms. Malmström will inherit a robust trade agenda. The European Union recently concluded a bilateral trade agreement with Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). However, this agreement still needs to be approved by the EU Council and the European Parliament, a process that promises to be contentious, particularly because of the treaty’s controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. Malmström will be responsible for convincing EU member states to ratify the agreement. Europe’s trade deal with Canada is seen by many as a framework for ongoing negotiations with the United States, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). These negotiations face a number of roadblocks, including the same ISDS system that is plaguing CETA, government procurement and the harmonization of food safety and labeling standards. President-elect Juncker also charged Malmström with increasing transparency of the negotiations in respect to EU citizens and the European Parliament.
Trade negotiations with Japan for an ambitious bilateral agreement continue, aiming to increase trade between the two nations, particularly in services. Also on the agenda are concluding negotiations with several ASEAN countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia. In addition to bilateral agreements, Malmström will attempt to lead a revival of a multilateral trading system that was deflated in 2014 after India backed out of the Trade Facilitation Agreement. While it is unclear what the next multilateral agreement will entail, Malmström will be tasked with ensuring that WTO negotiations continue in some capacity. Not to be overlooked on the agenda is the implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine, signed last month and due to come into effect in 2016. Russia is pressuring the EU and Ukraine to renegotiate the agreement, which Malmström will have to help resist. She will also have to work with EU member states and the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, to implement the agreement and ensure that Ukraine does the same.
New Commissioner Overseeing SMEs
Complementing Malmström’s work is the Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industries, Entrepreneurship, and SMEs (Small to Medium-sized Enterprises) is Elżbieta Bieńkowska. Bieńkowska, who takes over the position from current Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, previously served as Minister for Infrastructure and Development and Deputy Prime Minister for Poland. She will be tasked with completing the internal market in goods and services and building on the strength of the single market to increase competitiveness of EU SMEs in the global economy.