EuroCommerce, which represents national federations and companies in the retail, wholesale and international trade sector from 31 European countries, has proposed four strategic goals for the period 2019-20121. The goals are being discussed in Brussels March 21 and 22.

The first goal is to prepare for the data economy. The second goal is to set clear rules for fair competition. Next is the fight for open trade in and outside the EU. The fourth goal is to commit to sustainable living.

“I certainly agree with the four goals,” said Vassilis Korkidis, president of the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE). “Definitely the first three are oriented towards lobby actions, both defensive and offensive. The fourth one, whilst containing legislative and policy objectives, aims at positioning the retail sector positively in the European economy and society.”

Korkidis said there is great interest to address the challenges of big data and creating a smart business environment for SMEs. He also noted the importance for clear rules for fair competition.

“ESEE has sent a letter to EuroCommerce highlighting exactly this necessity,” he said. “A characteristic example would be the huge deviations of annual turnover thresholds among member states regarding the exemptions from VAT… Of course, flat VAT without exemptions is no solution either.

“Access to finance, tax-rates, ease of doing business, should be top priorities, ensuring the right treatment for all enterprises, regardless of their size,” he added. “Any onerous regulations must be abolished while enterprises should be encouraged to extrovert by all means.”

As for trade liberalisation, Korkidis said this is not a choice. “It’s happening already, despite the efforts of ‘big players’ to change the rules of the game,” he said. “However, the framework is not clear, but blur. A stronger WTO might ensure that the terms of trade are equal for all stakeholders, but we have to work more towards this direction.

“The debate between free trade and protectionism is one of the most famous issues in economics. The choice between freedom and tariffs is a matter which is being influenced by a variety of historical and economic reasons.”