EuroCommerce, which represents the retail and wholesale sectors in Europe, has said that maintaining free trade will be an essential tool in driving the economic recovery, post COVID-19.
Commenting on EU Trade Policy Day, which took place on Monday (26 April), EuroCommerce director-general Christian Verschueren noted that while the pandemic has hit the European and global economy hard, "the focus must now be on definitively beating the virus and building economic recovery.
"Some countries have reacted to the COVID crisis by erecting new barriers when all the experience shows that keeping trade open, whether within the EU single market or globally, is the best way to drive growth – and closing it down in a negative cycle of ‘beggar-my-neighbour’ is a guaranteed path to slowing recovery."
His comments echo those of the IMF, which recently stated that trade has the ability to be a vital engine in driving economic recovery.
Global trade volumes are expected to go up by 8.4% in 2021 and by further 6.5% in 2022. The WTO recently raised its forecast for global trade, despite what it described as a 'cloudy' outlook.
'It is imperative that these encouraging figures will not be choked off by protectionist steps theoretically intended to support the economy but will serve the protection of a few sectors at the cost of the rest of the economy and consumers,' EuroCommerce noted.
Import And Export
At the same time, the picture for businesses is far from rosy; importers and exporters are reporting increased costs and logjams due to a shortage of shipping containers, a situation that has persisted since the beginning of the pandemic.
'We support our colleagues at CLECAT and other trade associations to ask the European Commission to look carefully at these developments and to ensure that these imbalances are addressed,' said EuroCommerce.
'The present system is imposing unreasonable costs on traders and consumers, and disrupting supply chains, with everyone having to wait longer for products coming by sea.'
In February, EuroCommerce noted that the retail and wholesale sectors remain vital for the European business recovery.