Trade minister: Need to avoid overemphasis on protectionism

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IT and foreign trade minister Andres Sutt (Reform). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonia should be mindful of evolving attitudes to foreign trade, both within the European Union and within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as other contexts, Minister for Foreign Trade and IT Andres Sutt (Reform) says.

This should strike a balance on focus on the union and that of third countries - a phrase used regularly in Estonia to refer to non-EU nations of all kinds - while too much protectionism is a bad thing, Sutt says.

Speaking after a video meeting with his French counterpart, Franck Riester, Friday, Sutt said: "In the field of defense, we are very close allies, and it should be our aim to boost relations between Estonia and France also in trade and investments."

Cyber security, space technology and aviation were all fertile ground for Franco-Estonian cooperation, Sutt said.

"While the Estonian space industry is not particularly large, we have several strong companies which offer novel and innovative solutions in matters related to the cyber security of space communications, for instance. Moreover, the Estonian aviation cluster has a strong value proposition for French companies, such as Airbus," Sutt went on.

Estonia's defense forces provide an infantry platoon and other personnel to the French-led counter-terrorism and human trafficking Operation Barkhane, in the West African country of Mali.

Andres Sutt also stressed that measures fall in line with WTO rules, as well as the EU's open trade policy, meaning that too much protectionism should be avoided.

"The main task facing the EU is to find a suitable balance between the open world trade system and restrictive measures. We must protect EU citizens and businesses against unfair competition; however, we must not forget the open approach, which is one of the fundamental principles of the EU."

The EU is faces several challenges, but also major opportunities, in green transition and digital transition, as well as that of trade, Sutt went on.

The European Commission had published a trade policy overview in February in relation to WTO reforms; Estonia supports bolstering multi-lateral trade further, including via the WTO, Sutt said, heightened by the EU's own desire to engage in more trade with its nearest neighbors, as well as with African nations.

Franck Riester plans an in-person visit to Estonia when possible, while a remote, virtual visit involving French and Estonian business delegations is due next week, BNS reports.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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