“When it comes to transparent implementation and enforcement of the GSP framework, we rely on the engagement from stakeholders”
– Interview with the Chief Trade Enforcement Officer
Watch the summary of the interview here:
Mr Redonnet emphasises the importance of input and engagement of the stakeholder community to ensure effective implementation of the GSP. Share your insights and feedback on aspects where you see a requirement for enforcement under GSP commitments in the comments below!
We sat down virtually with the new Chief Trade Enforcement Officer Denis Redonnet and talked about his new position and its implications for the EU’s trade & values agenda and the Generalised Scheme of Preferences. Mr Redonnet was appointed Chief Trade Enforcement Officer in July 2020, a new position created under Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
GSP HUB*: Why did the European Commission decide to create this new office of the Chief Trade Enforcement Officer?
DENIS REDONNET, CTEO: The von der Leyen Commission considers that implementing and enforcing existing trade agreements is as important as negotiating new trade agreements. We need to focus on how we can maximise gains from trade agreements and arrangements and make sure that our partners implement the commitments properly. The current Commission identified the commitments that come with trade agreements and arrangements as a priority area. Part of this reinforced engagement is the new function of the Chief Trade Enforcement Officer, which is accompanied by a range of changes both in the way we work but in also devising new legislative tools for better enforcement and implementation. In that sense, beyond the creation of this new post, it reflects a much broader, collective effort across the Commission.
GSP HUB: What are the main responsibilities for you as the Chief Trade Enforcement Officer?
REDONNET: My role includes coordinative tasks relating to the implementation and enforcement of our trade agreements. This means leveraging the different resources we have inside the European Commission, but also in the Member States. In terms of responsibilities, three aspects are especially important to me. First, to maximise the gains of trade agreements for economic operators. Second, to tackle market access barriers and violations of commitments under trade agreements including the trade and sustainability development provisions. A third responsibility is further developing an enforcement toolbox, which, in some cases, also includes upgrading our legislative instruments for example with regard to the EU’s Enforcement Regulation. Thus, the position seeks to activate existing frameworks of cooperation and engagement with third countries in the most efficient way while making use of unilateral trade and enforcement tools where necessary.
GSP HUB: How exactly will the office function? Will you have a lot of staff working with you or will it be largely a coordinating function as you described it on the part of the European Commission?
REDONNET: Indeed, my job is mainly about leveraging existing expertise and resources and by doing that – pulling the necessary instruments to enforce our agreements. The goal is to use these more effectively and to ensure that all assets involved in the process are synchronised. This refers to both people working in the administration but also the instruments themselves. It is important to understand that the overall framework-the agreements and mechanisms- remains in place. The existing framework will be complemented by adjustments to our working practices, particularly relating to our interaction with stakeholders. The introduction of the Single-Entry Point is one of these adjustments as it provides a centralised platform for EU based stakeholders to raise trade barriers or violations of EU trade commitments in third countries.
The GSP is an established framework, how can we implement it more systematically and transparently?
GSP HUB: Let us talk a bit more about the Generalised Scheme of Preferences. What is the implication for the GSP?
REDONNET: The GSP is an established framework, and the main question for us is how we can implement it in a sound, systematic and transparent way. From the mid-term evaluation of the GSP, we learned that stakeholders would like to have better understanding of how the GSP compliance functions. Compliance aspects under the GSP are now covered by our new complaint mechanism under the Single-Entry Point. The same way stakeholders can notify us of market access barriers, stakeholders can raise issues relating to non-compliance with obligations under the GSP. Complaints will be treated equally no matter whether they relate to market access or non-compliance of commitments made under GSP or Trade and Sustainable Development. When it comes to transparent implementation of the GSP framework, we are reliant on the engagement from the stakeholder community. Stakeholders can bring forward evidence about compliance issues in third countries but also ideas on how to move forward. That is why we bank on initiatives like the GSP Hub, which enable us to gather inputs and evidence and feed it into the GSP implementation process. In that sense, I see the GSP Hub not just as a transparency exercise but also as a platform where the GSP community can come together and support the actual implementation of the GSP.
GSP HUB: What are the legal instruments of enforcements that are available to you?
REDONNET: We will enforce what is enforceable. We will use the existing legal frameworks under the agreements and arrangements. Thus, if it helps to find a resolution we have recourse to arbitration, dispute resolution, or third party adjudication. Other cases might require a different form of engagement. When it comes to the GSP, for example, our objective with the beneficiary countries is to seek progress over time. The implementation framework over two-year cycles enables us to build up progress under this instrument. Enforcement actions relating to the GSP might be different compared to how we would address a market access violation. In every situation, we will select the instrument that enables us to solve differences in the best possible way and that depends on the nature of the problem but also the situation in the third country.
The benchmark for this renewed effort on enforcement is the perception by the European public that EU trade agreements work to their benefit
GSP HUB: Will your office regularly report, or will it report on cases? How is the reporting structure foreseen?
REDONNET: As CTEO, I report directly to the European Parliament, which is very important as this is where the EU exercises its democratic sovereignty over trade policy. The European Commission is already quite active in its reporting activities and publishes a variety of annual reports. For me, it is more a question of how the information could be better disseminated and how the reports could lead to more interaction with the stakeholder community.
GSP HUB: Will there be a focus or a priority in terms of trade agreements or arrangements you will be focussing on?
REDONNET: Prioritisation is an important part of my work especially with regard to the individual cases brought forward by the stakeholders. We will take a close look at each case individually and examine the legal basis as well as the evidence. We will also take into account the relative economic and systemic importance of the issue. We are going to prioritise those cases where we have enough evidence to act upon.
GSP HUB: If you think about the medium term, what kind of enforcement actions do you think the European Commission will be taking or may have taken by that time?
REDONNET: In the medium term, I think we will have made tangible progress in resolving market access barriers and to address issues relating to the compliance with commitments taken by third countries, including on the labour side. Changes and improvements on the ground are what counts at the end of the day. The benchmark for this renewed effort is the perception by the European public and the stakeholder community that EU trade agreements make a positive change. This is closely related to the distribution of gains from trade, and it will be important to ensure that they materialise across the entire stakeholder community. In terms of enforcement actions, this might include harder-edged enforcement action but also less visible actions, for example resolving problems even before they become entrenched.
GSP HUB: My last question would be about possible enforcement actions strictly related to the GSP. Do you anticipate that there will be more such action in the coming years?
REDONNET: We regard developments under the GSP as a process, not every violation will be counterbalanced with enforcement actions on side of the EU. We are going to monitor the issues that are being brought to our attention very closely. The first step will always be to raise these issues as much as possible with the countries concerned before applying the legal framework. When necessary and justified, we will take enforcement actions including in the form of withdrawal.
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