His five-year term of office as President of the European Commission is coming to an end for Jean-Claude Juncker and he is about to hand over to former German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen.

The first German to lead the EU in more than half a century, she has spent the last few months putting together her team of Commissioners and allocating their portfolios for the next five-year term.

As we reported in September, the responsibility for trade has been handed to Ireland’s Phil Hogan (see Tough Trade Talks Ahead After Brexit).

Having had her nominations ratified by the European Parliament, Ms von der Leyen has now written to the new Commissioners setting out her vision for the future of the EU and spelling out what she expects them to accomplish in their particular sectors.

The letter to Mr Hogan can be found at ec.europa.eu.

Having stress that each Commissioner will ensure the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals within their policy area, she turns to the question of trade.

The EU is the world’s trading superpower, she notes, and its place is at the heart of the rules-based multilateral system with open and fair trade based on global rules that are effective, enforceable and create a level playing field for all.

A top priority will be to lead the reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), notably on the issues of subsidies, forced transfer of technologies and dispute settlement.

“You should aim to launch a broad initiative by the end of 2020, following the next WTO Ministerial Conference, with a view to reaching a comprehensive agreement by 2022,” Mr Hogan is instructed.

He is also told to work towards a positive, balanced and mutually beneficial trading partnership with the United States and to step up negotiations with China.

With regard to the UK, however, Ms von der Leyen simply says: “Once there is more clarity, we should be ready to pave the way for an ambitious and strategic partnership with the United Kingdom.”

Last reviewed 3 December 2019