It seems to be a rule rather than an exception that the negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements today take longer than expected. The Finnish Forest Industries Federation encourages the EU to purposefully expand its toolbox in building trade relations.

As the global geopolitical situation tightens its grip on world trade, the European Union urgently needs new trading partners to secure the movement of products and raw materials, even though the EU already has the most comprehensive network of free trade agreements in the world. During the previous EU presidency of Spain, negotiations with several countries were advanced, and it is to be hoped that the new president, Belgium, will continue this line.

In recent years, the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements have slowed down. The content of the agreements has expanded to increasingly cover topics that could possibly be agreed upon elsewhere. The EU's increasing demands at the negotiating table can make trading partners switch to other tables. The prolonged negotiation situation lowers the threshold for unilateral state actions, which have already been widely enacted in recent years. In addition to risk management, decision-making is guided by the fragmentation of world trade, which has tightened some existing trade partnerships at the expense of creating new relationships.

Trade can be promoted in multiple ways

When new free trade agreements are delayed, it makes sense to look for other ways to ease trade. The cooperation with the United States can be seen as an example. The US and the EU do not have a free trade agreement, and there are no signs that one would be negotiated any time soon. Instead, the cooperation is done through the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) and the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA). Within these, conformity assessment and harmonization have been promoted, steel and aluminum tariffs have been negotiated, and it is hoped that the movement of critical battery materials (CMA) would soon be agreed upon.

There are other examples too. In recent years, the EU has established a TTC with India and concluded MRA agreements with several other countries. In addition, the EU has negotiated digital trade agreements with several countries, which deepen existing trade partnerships.

Trade facilitation benefits everyone

Trade statistics show that the simplification of customs procedures and the creation of a common regulatory base advance and equalize trade with the treaty countries. For consumers, free trade agreements materialize as expansion of the product and service selections and perhaps even with lowered prices. Through joint regulation and standards, the safety of products also improves.

Finland strives to examine global trade as a broad and open entity. It is also vital for the forest industry exports that trade is liberalized, and trade barriers are purposefully dismantled. If the free trade agreement negotiations do not progress, other ways to facilitate global trade must be urgently promoted. Finland must encourage the EU to eradicate growing protectionism and defend rules-based free trade to maintain its own competitiveness.