EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren, speaking on the launch of the European Digital Strategy by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager and Commissioner Thierry Breton, underlined the many positive elements in the Commission communication:
“Our sector has been using digital technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) to make sure that consumers have the products they want at the right time while making their operations more efficient and offering better services. It is welcome that the Commission proposes an approach which both builds up consumer trust and also promotes the development and application of new technologies. It is also beneficial that their white paper on AI looks to a differentiated approach to rules on the application of AI depending on the degree of risk involved. It is clear that an AI system predicting what goods to order according to the weather holds fewer risks for citizens than an application process for personal medical data.”
EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren commented today on the approval by the European Parliament of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
“We have been pushing for a free trade agreement with Vietnam for many years, and are delighted at the European Parliament’s decision to approve the deal. With its liberalisation of tariffs and deepening of business links the agreement offers real opportunities for European businesses – granting exporters access to a strong emerging market of close to 100 million people, and offers EU importers and consumers new opportunities in a sustainable and responsible source of quality products. With the commitments made by Vietnam, the agreement will also reinforce the improvements already made to conditions for Vietnamese workers.”
The EU-Vietnam FTA will eliminate over 99% of the tariffs at present in force. Vietnam will liberalise 65% of import duties on EU exports to Vietnam at entry into force of the agreement, with the remainder of duties on, for example, dairy products and wines and spirits, being eliminated over a 5-10-year period. EU duties will be eliminated over the next 7 years.
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Speaking today in Athens at the Future of Retail conference attended by 700 Greek retailers and organised by the Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship, ESEE, a leading member of EuroCommerce, Director-General Christian Verschueren identified the key trends set to shape European Retail now and in the future.
- The Digital Transformation and changing face of retail and wholesale
- A “difficult Europe”, marked by slow economic recovery and growing protectionism in and outside Europe
- Global imperatives on healthy living, sustainability and shifts in jobs and skills.
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Ahead of the talks in the OECD this week in Paris, EuroCommerce Director General Christian Verschueren pressed negotiators to make concrete progress on modernising international taxation systems:
“Retailers and wholesalers, both online and offline, support the OECD discussions on modernising corporate tax systems and make them appropriate to the digitalised global economy. It is essential that negotiators now find common ground on taking forward the negotiations to find a multinational solution and avoid a growing trend towards fragmented national approaches.”
EuroCommerce Narrative on Retail and Wholesale in a changing world…
The world is changing rapidly. Retailers and wholesalers have repeatedly shown how resilient and adaptive they are, and are moving ahead with embracing this change, providing value to customers, suppliers, and society at large. This great story is worth telling – both to the sector and to the wider world. And the story needs to say clearly what we want from the EU and from national governments to make our sector sustainably competitive.
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The undersigned business associations respectfully request Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to consider the benefits for both sides and to approve the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.
We note that the negotiations on the EU-Vietnam FTA concluded in December 2015, and both European and Vietnamese businesses and consumers have been waiting since then for its ratification and entry into force.
The trade agreement, with its liberalisation of tariffs and deepening of business links, represents a great opportunity for European businesses – granting access to a strong emerging market of close to 100 million people. It also opens the door to partnership, dialogue and cooperation with Vietnam creating stronger ties with the South-East-Asian region and will raise standards for consumers and workers alike. The agreement contains a strong chapter on trade and sustainability, to which the Commission and Vietnam have made a strong commitment to ensure close compliance. Furthermore, the Vietnamese government has made an equally strong commitment to address earlier concerns about workers’ rights and ratify and implement three core ILO conventions. One of these has already been transposed into Vietnamese law, and the Vietnamese government will implement the others shortly, significantly improving the situation of workers in Vietnam.
The EU-Vietnam Business coalition firmly supports the approval of the EU-Vietnam Agreement, and we ask for your support of ratification of this Free Trade Agreement in the INTA committee on Tuesday, 21 January.
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At a high-level Commission Conference on Food Waste today, EuroCommerce and other members of the EU Platform on Food Waste and Loss renewed their commitment to work together with all others in the food supply chain to reduce food waste. EuroCommerce actively participated in the preparation of cross-sectoral recommendations launched by the Commission at the conference.
Speaking today, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren underlined the need for a holistic approach to reducing food waste:
“Our sector’s positive contribution to reducing food waste needs to be matched by action from public authorities if it is to be as effective as possible. We need decision-makers to make the legal position and tax treatment of donations of food a lot clearer and more favourable in order to create the right conditions for wholesome food which cannot be sold to get to people who can benefit most from it.”
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Speaking today on behalf of European retailers and wholesalers, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren supported the Commission strategy set out in its long-awaited European Green initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050:
“The Green Deal presents a tremendous opportunity for Europe to take on global leadership in creating a sustainable and more competitive economy. Our sector has already acted in a wide range of voluntary initiatives to reduce its impact on the environment. These range from improving the efficiency of its operations in store and across the supply chain, to being a leading actor in enabling recycling and addressing food waste.”
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Today EuroCommerce and ERRT celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Retail Forum for Sustainability and the Retail Environmental Action Programme (REAP) in a joint event organized together with the European Commission. We value the close and constructive partnership we have enjoyed with the European Commission and other signatories in the Retail Environmental Action Programme. We are now looking forward to the next chapter.
In 2009, the European Commission launched their Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan. It recognised the important contribution retailers make to sustainability and to influencing sustainable consumption. This generated the Retailers’ Environmental Action Plan, a voluntary initiative co-chaired by retailers and the European Commission, aimed at reducing environmental impacts in the retail sector and its supply chain, promoting more sustainable products, and providing better information to consumers.
Over those years, sustainability has become mainstream. We are now glad to be working towards the next phase of our cooperation within the Commission’s efforts around the European Green Deal, which is being presented today.
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The WTO Appellate Body will cease to function tomorrow due to retiring judges and the blockage of new judge nominations. Commenting on the situation, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“Retailers and wholesalers depend on free trade and global supply chains to give customers the goods they need when they need them. A properly-functioning multilateral trading system is essential to guarantee that this can happen. We therefore deeply regret the impasse in Geneva on the WTO Appellate Body and call upon all WTO members to work on a way out as soon as possible.”
The Appellate Body plays an important part of the WTO’s role in resolving contentious trade disputes. Without a quorum, now rendered impossible by the retirement of some of its existing members and their replacement being blocked by the US, it can no longer function.
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Retailers and wholesalers in Europe expressed their support for the new Commission under Ursula von der Leyen. Speaking today after the convincing European Parliament vote in favour of the new team, EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:
“We are pleased to be able to mark the start of a new Commission with a clear set of priorities and bold ambitions. We fully support coherent action to address climate change and sustainability under the Green Deal, but will be stressing the need for this to be pursued in ways which engage all parts of the supply chain, including consumers, in a positive way. We look forward to working with the Commission on making Europe fit for the digital age. Digitalisation is already transforming our sector, and we have to ensure that SMEs and consumers can also benefit directly. Above all, we will be stressing the need for open markets and addressing the rising tide of protectionism both in and outside the EU. We need to remember that the Single Market is the keystone of European integration and our future prosperity.”
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Member States keep on proposing retail-specific taxes based on turnover. This may put retailers out of business, decrease choice and in the end increase consumer prices.
After Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, Lithuania has now proposed a new retail tax. The proposal consists of a flat rate of 1% on consumer sales, with a turnover threshold of EUR 2 million a month.
European Supply Chain Initiative winds down activities – Principles of Good Practice remain in placeRead more
After six years of operation, the work of the European Supply Chain Initiative (SCI), a joint initiative launched by several EU level associations with the aim of promoting fairness in commercial relations along the food supply chain, will wind down at the end of 2019. The European SCI mechanisms and tools developed over the years remain available to all stakeholders. The SCI’s Principles of Good Practice, which have been widely endorsed along the food supply chain, will continue to be promoted as an important standard. National dialogue platforms and registered companies remain free to continue to apply and promote the Principles on a voluntary basis.