BERLIN – Berlin, Paris and Rome welcomed on Wednesday an initiative put forward by the European Commission that would enable the European Union to have a final say on all foreign trade agreements in a bid to protect Europe’s corporations from any undesired mergers and acquisitions.
In a joint declaration, the governments of Germany, France, and Italy considered the proposition put forward in EC President Jean-Claude Junker’ State of the Union 2017 speech an important for the better protection of EU companies.
“We are not naïve free traders,” Junker said, stressing the need for “transparency” and “political responsibility to know what is going on in our own backyard” and to “protect our collective security.”
Junkers said Europe was open for business but it had to be reciprocal.
He reflected on February’s joint German, French and Italian proposal seeking common guidelines that would provide pan-European legal guidelines allowing member states to screen and veto foreign investments, mainly from third countries attempting to acquire Europe’s strategic industrial assets.
In the past months, a number of European capitals have raised the alarm as Chinese companies, often state-owned, have attempted to purchase state-of-the-art European companies.
Germany’s Minister of Economy, Brigitte Zypries, said all the EU member countries were very interested in direct foreign investment when its took place under fair market conditions.
However, Zypries also warned about the “need to prevent other states from taking advantage of our openness in order to push through their industrial policy interests.”
The French minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, underscored the EU “must be ready to stand up for its interests and protect itself – in particular when competition is not fair and we are dealing with important national strategic interests.” and to “ensure reciprocity (...) in all our trade relationships.”
The Italian minister of economic development, Carlo Calenda, added that his country, as the main destination of Foreign Direct Investment, must “ensure a level playing field” and to count on the EU “to swiftly agree on the proposed system of rules that will enable the member states to effectively counter unfair practices in foreign investments.”