Sant backs EU deterrent against third countries on coercion in trade

Labour MEP Alfred Sant votes for anti-coercion instrument but said tool must be used defensively and not as a weapon

Council president Charles Michel with Chinese premier Xi Jinping
Council president Charles Michel with Chinese premier Xi Jinping

Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant has voted in favour of a European Parliament report about economic coercion by third countries.

The vote passed with 578 in favour, 24 against and 19 abstentions. 

Sant acknowledged that in the absence of an anti-coercion Instrument, the European Union would remain vulnerable to economic coercion from third countries. But he expressed reservation on whether this legislation would bring much value added to the European Union in its conduct of economic and other relations with third parties.

Economic coercion is defined as a situation where a third country attempts to pressure the EU or a Member State into making a particular choice by applying or threatening to apply, measures affecting trade or investment against the EU or a member state.

The European Council will have significant involvement in the decision-making process, determining the existence of economic coercion.

The European Commission will be given implementing powers in decisions on the EU’s response measures, while ensuring increased involvement of member states in these decisions.

The instrument can be triggered by a wide range of coercive economic practices where a third country applies or threatens to apply a measure affecting trade or investment in order to prevent or obtain the cessation, modification or adoption of a particular act by the Union or a member state.

The signing of the regulation is expected to take place on 22 November 2023.

Sant said the ACI is a deterrent for third countries to de-escalate and induce the discontinuation of coercive measures in trade and investment through dialogue. “Whether on a bilateral or multilateral basis, relations develop following negotiations during which all sides try to influence the policy making of the other parties on a tit-for-tat basis. Such influence may take form of measures in areas unrelated to the negotiations in course,” Sant noted.

Sant opined that the triggers for this instrument should be broadly defined, and country-neutral, as coercion can manifest itself in various forms. “It should be made clear that the instrument is not an offensive but a defensive tool, meant to protect the Union’s legitimate policy space.”

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