EU Needs to Strengthen Its Global Competitiveness

Six industrial federations from Central and Eastern Europe (CEEI - Central and Eastern European Initiative) presented its Recommendations for EU 2024-2029. Their joint documents deals with challenges, brought about by recent crises including the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion to Ukraine.

The publication of joint priorities together with our regional partners adds on to the other activities of the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic ahead of the elections to the European Parliament this June. With our partner organisations from Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia we agreed upon the need of a coordinated approach in favour of global competitiveness, open strategic autonomy, green and digital transitions, as well as the need of further development of highly skilled workforce. The Manifesto calls for reducing the administrative burden, for effective trade protection measures, strengthening competitiveness and addressing the issue of the lack of workforce through innovative education and re-skilling. The signatory federations commit themselves to supporting the rule of law and social dialogue to ensure prosperous economies and the quality of life in Europe.


EU trade policy should be assertive and should complement the goals of its member states. As regards free trade agreements, their provisions should aim at diversification of suppliers, at mutually beneficial partnerships with third countries and at balancing geopolitical aspects as well as economic interests. When negotiating and implementing FTAs, it is necessary to give priority to crucial regions, such as the MERCOSUR, Chile, Mexico, Australia, India or ASEAN. It is also important that the FTAs balance EU’s relations with the major economies, esp. with the US and China, in order to decrease trade costs and maintained the equilibrium in mutual relations.

The Confederation of Industry has been supporting new FTAs with key partners, which is in line with the position of the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade. Amongst our foremost priorities for the current mandate is the agreement with MERCOSUR (meaning the Southern Common Market), including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The goal of the agreement is to decrease tariffs and other barriers to trade, increase economic growth, security of jobs and prosperity in both markets. Meeting high standards in terms of labour market and environment protection forms another important component of the agreement.
The agreement with MERCOSUR would bring numerous benefits, such as the diversification of trade partnerships, decreasing dependencies on Russia and China as well as better access to raw materials with importance for sustainable technologies. As regards the climate protection, the agreement puts emphasis on effective fulfilment of Paris Agreement targets and obliges the signatories to fight against illegal deforestation and to support biodiversity.

These facts are in direct contradiction to common myths about reportedly negative effects of the FTA on climate and other standards. Based on the recent campaign of our partner federation in Austria - the Industriellenvereinigung (IV) - which was focused on disproving incorrect pieces of information about the effects of the agreement, let’s name at least a few misleading arguments such as "the agreement damages the climate”, "the agreement would flood our domestic market with cheap meat and soya” or that “it exploits the workforce.” In addition, the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade compiled an impact assessment of the EU agreement with MERCOSUR on the Czech economy, on strengthening our export and our labour market - the study is available here (in Czech).

The CEEI manifesto is being published while negotiations with MERCOSUR are facing serious hurdles based on protectionist attitude of several EU member states led by France. We hope that despite these obstacles, the agreement will be finalized and signed as soon as possible.

The complete text of the CEEI Recommendations for the EU 2024-29 is available here.

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