Former Latvian prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis named as new EU trade chief
Ireland lost the trade portfolio after Phil Hogan resigned following allegations he breached Covid-19 health guidelines
Brussels — European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen put former Latvian prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis in charge of the influential trade portfolio in a reshuffle forced by the departure of Irishman Phil Hogan.
Von der Leyen also named Mairead McGuinness, a senior member of the European parliament, as the new Irish commissioner for financial services and stability and capital markets.
Dombrovskis, one of three executive vice-presidents among the 27 commissioners, will continue to oversee the EU economy and attend Eurogroup meetings of eurozone finance ministers.
Ireland lost the trade portfolio after Hogan resigned after allegations he breached COVID-19 health guidelines on a trip home.
Dombrovskis was already put in temporary charge of trade and faces a busy next few months as the permanent appointee.
The bloc is locked in difficult negotiations over future ties with post-Brexit Britain, faces trade tensions with the US, pressure to rein in China and a challenge pushing through a trade accord struck with Brazil and other Mercosur countries.
Dombrovskis will hope a transatlantic mini-deal that removes duties on US lobsters can help resolve more significant differences over aircraft subsidies for Boeing and Airbus as well as US tariffs on EU steel and aluminium — all in the run-up to the US election.
The commission also wants EU members to unite around a new leader for the World Trade Organisation, for which a two-month selection process began this week, and is seeking to conclude an overall review of its trade policy.
McGuinness has been an EU legislator from Ireland since 2004 and has served as the chamber's deputy head since 2017. She is a member of Fine Gael.
Dombrovskis and McGuinness are with the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), the largest grouping in the European parliament, which will have to vet both appointments.
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