An Eurobarometer survey published on Wednesday by the European Commission shows that 60 percent of Europeans feel that they personally benefit from international trade, 16 percentage points above a similar poll conducted 10 years ago. The survey also revealed that 71 percent of respondents believe that the EU is more effective in defending their countries’ trade interests than these countries acting on their own.
The report covers a range of aspects related to European citizens’ awareness, perceptions and attitudes towards international trade, including:
- Objectives and priorities for EU trade policy: 54 percent of respondents suggest that the main priority of the EU trade policy should be to create jobs in the EU. Defending EU environment and health standards has also become important to Europeans, as half of the respondents consider it a priority. This is 20 percentage points above the 2010 survey. More than half of Europeans recognise that the EU trade policy has already been taking into account the social, environmental and human rights impacts within the EU and worldwide.
- Need for international trade rules: Three quarters of Europeans agree that there is a need for international trade rules.
- Trust and transparency: Six in ten say that they trust the EU to conduct its trade policy in an open and transparent manner.
- Benefits of trade: 54 percent of those considering international trade beneficial for them named the benefit of a wider choice of products, while 36 percent saw price reduction as the most important advantage. These benefits seem to be more tangible for younger respondents and those with a higher level of education and income.
- Fairness in international trade: a third of those questioned think that it is naïve to expect other countries to follow trade rules. More than half of respondents thought that the EU should increase import duties on non-EU countries or businesses that do not play by international trade rules.
”When I took office five years ago, there was a lot of criticism against international trade and how the Commission conducted trade negotiations. We therefore decided to reform the way we do trade policy. Through increased transparency, we wanted to create trust. This Eurobarometer survey proves that we were successful. Citizens feel more positive about trade today than ten years ago. A majority of citizens considers that trade benefits them directly, and that the commission is transparent in its negotiations. This is very positive in times of growing protectionism and trade conflicts around the globe!” said Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.
The survey’s findings confirmed a good match between the priorities formulated by EU citizens and those set out in the EU “Trade for All” strategy followed over the last five years.
Over that period, the EU has seen 16 new trade agreements enter into force, including major ones with Canada and Japan. International trade supports today 36 million EU jobs, 5 million more than in 2014.
There has been an increased focus on transparency and sustainable development, with environment and labour rights becoming a cornerstone of EU trade policy. Unilateral protectionist measures increased the need for the EU to step up and defend Europeans against unfair and illegal trade measures by others. Currently more than 130 EU trade defence measures are in force, which help protecting 343,000 European jobs.
The data presented in the report will also serve as an important basis for definition of objectives and trade policy practices for the years to come, the Commission says.