Vicky Ford: Internal market benefits go beyond trade

20-Oct-2016 @ 15:00

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Vicky Ford: Internal market benefits go beyond trade

The European Union must begin engaging with ordinary people if it is to rebuild trust in international trade deals and the Single Market.

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, chairman of the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, told a major conference today that too much attention had been paid to an elite group of consumers.

And she stressed that the Single Market was not just a trading system but "the practical co-operation that lies behind each consumer transaction."

She said: "We will not regain support for trade if we only focus on the small minority of consumers who shop online across borders, the handful who care about cross-border digital downloads or the elite who follow the debate on geo-blocking.

"The vast majority of European consumers do not purchase across borders, do not want to and do not need to. We need to show how it is because of the Single Market that retailers can offer such choice and diversity at a local level.

"Unless we all, in the UK and across Europe, re-grasp the conversation with ordinary consumers on the benefits of trade for them, we will lose their confidence not only for international trade deals but also in the Single Market as a whole."

Reminding the audience at the European Consumer Summit in Brussels that the core benefits of free trade for consumers were wider choice, greater diversity and lower prices, Mrs Ford warned: "Every time we here in Brussels ban a product, limit a service or add extra costs into the supply chain we undermine that core message."

She urged the 500 plus audience of stakeholders and policy makers not to reduce choice or add costs unless they were absolutely convinced that this was what consumers wanted.

Mrs Ford pointed out that the Single Market delivered benefits beyond tariff-free trade. These include:

* the Rapex alert programme, which enables faulty or dangerous products to be recalled quickly throughout the EU;

* the payments area system which helps small businesses trade easily across all Member States;

* the single approval system allowing products to come to market faster, such as a new asthma inhaler produced by Glaxo Smith Kline in Mrs Ford's East of England constituency.

Today's keynote speech comes as the EU-Canada trade deal is in doubt after being rejected by the Wallonian regional parliament in Belgium.

Mrs Ford concluded: "In my lifetime I have seen a world that has worked to tear down barriers to trade, but now increasingly I see that we risk tipping into a new era fuelled by protectionism."

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