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Revealed: Trading partners ask EU: “Who has appointed you world regulator?”

In a speech for the the Institute of International and European Affairs, Sabine Weyand (picture), the European Commission’s Director General for Trade, has remarked that trading partners  are increasingly questioning EU’s use of trade policy to act as a “global regulator”. She thereby also questioned the EU’s handling of its deforestation directive, stating:

“We should learn some lessons from the opposition we are currently facing with respect to the deforestation regulation … we have to recognize that the means are extremely burdensome and very difficult to meet for developing countries and notably for small and medium sized businesses and smallholders in these countries.” (…)

“We have pushed away a number of partners we need through our increased use of autonomous trade measures; unilateral measures that other countries see as imposing on them extra-territorial effects of our legislation. And they resent that. (…) We hear that increasingly on measures like the deforestation regulation … there are huge concerns. So we need to think about our attractiveness for our trading partners.” (…)  “The Global South and the emerging and developing economies, they do not simply want to copy our legislation and they say, who has appointed you world regulator? So I think we have to take on regulatory cooperation. We have to take a proper cooperative approach. (…) It is clear that we will not be able to have such an approach with India and Indonesia.”

Meanwhile, a new French film, called ‘The green promise’, portrays the palm oil industry in Southeast Asia as evil. Analysts have argued that the film violates the facts, citing as an example how it ends with the message that “deforestation is accelerating”, which is a  quote from the World Resources Institute that however applies to global deforestation, not to the specific situation in Malaysia and Indonesia, of which the same World Resources Institute concluded last year that a sharp decline in forest loss can be observed, praising both countries in their success against deforestation. Opponents of the EU’s approach have pointed out that an estimated 93% of palm oil imported into Europe is sustainable and does not cause deforestation, as alternatives like soy  require a whole lot more land, pesticides and energy.

Separately, a leaked internal EU briefing from the European Commission’s Director General for International Partnerships was equally critical towards the EU’s approach to trade and environment, as it intended to “thoroughly assess the impact of EU environmental regulations on our partners and mitigate negative externalities. Going forward it will be key to impact-assess environmental regulations before these are agreed upon and in a holistic manner, better considering their cumulative impacts, particularly on partner countries. The 46 Least Developed Countries are for instance important partners for the EU when it comes to our geopolitical positioning.”



Picture copyright: By © Stiftung Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz (gemeinnützige) GmbH;Credit: MSC / Oellermann – Cropped from File:Sabine_Weyand_at_Kick-off_Berlin_2019_-_(MSC9788).jpgOriginal source:, CC BY 3.0 de,