2018 2017 2016

EU Proposes Amendments to the Functioning of the WTO Appellate Body

28/11/2018

On 26 November, the EU Commission, in synergy with other WTO members (Australia, Canada, China, Iceland, India, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland) has published an amendment proposal to the functioning of the WTO Appellate Body.

The proposal builds upon the EU’s paper on the initial ideas on WTO modernisation and aims at implementing the European Council’s invitation to the Commission to propose a comprehensive approach to improving, together with like-minded partners, the functioning of the WTO in crucial areas, including "more effective and transparent dispute settlement, including the Appellate Body, with a view to ensuring a level playing field." (paragraph 16 of the EU Council’s conclusions of 28 June 2018).

The proposal intends to tackle the main criticisms raised against the WTO Appellate Body, and, in particular:

  • Transitional rules for outgoing Appellate Body member- The EU proposes an amendment to the DSU to provide that an outgoing Appellate Body member shall complete the disposition of a pending appeal in which a hearing has already taken place during that member's term.

  • The issue of 90 days- The EU proposes to amend Article 17.5 of the DSU by providing an enhanced consultation and transparency obligation for the Appellate Body. According to the proposa; “the Appellate Body would need to consult with the parties early in appellate proceedings – or before the appeal is filed – if it estimates that the report will be circulated outside 90 days. If there is no agreement of the parties on the exceeding of this timeframe there could be a mechanism pursuant to which the procedure or working arrangements for the particular appeal could be adapted to ensure the meeting of the 90-day timeframe. For example, the Appellate Body could propose to the parties to voluntarily focus the scope of the appeal, set an indicative page limit on the parties' submissions or it could take appropriate measures to reduce the length of its report. This could also include the publication of the report in the language of the appeal only, for the purposes of meeting the 90-day timeframe (the translation to the other WTO languages and formal circulation and adoption would come later).

  • The meaning of municipal law as an issue of fact – The EU proposes to amend Article 17.6 of the DSU to clarify that that issues of law covered in the panel report and legal interpretations developed by the panel – as well as the panel's objective assessment according to Article 11 of the DSU - do not include the meaning itself of the municipal measures.

  • Findings unnecessary for the resolution of the dispute – The EU proposes to amend 17.12 of the DSU to provide that the Appellate Body shall address each of the issues raised on appeal by the parties to the dispute to the extent this is necessary for the resolution of the dispute.

  • The issue of precedent – The EU proposes to open a further channel of communication between the Appellate Body and WTO Members (in the DSB) in the form of annual meetings where Members could express their views in a manner unrelated to the adoption of particular reports (as laid down currently in Article 17.14 of the DSU).                                                      

The proposal will be presented by the EU and co-sponsoring WTO countries to the entire membership at the meeting of the WTO General Council on 12 December.

Commissioner Malmström outlines how the EU is leading the way towards the multilateral reform of the investor-state-dispute-settlement (ISDS) system

22/11/2018

In a very well-attended meeting, on 22 November Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström held a speech on the reform of investment dispute settlement.

In her speech, Commissioner Malmström reiterated the commitment of the European Union to build together like-minded partners a multilateral system of rules where trade and investment are a powerful tool for growth and development.

Commissioner Malmström then highlighted the necessity to reform both trade (WTO) and investment (ISDS) dispute settlement to serve this aim.

Commissioner Malmström then affirmed her satisfaction with the progresses made in UNCITRAL on the reform of ISDS, and reiterated that the EU position is that only a multilateral court – such as the one proposed by the EU - can address the pitfalls of a systemdesigned in the 1960s and based on commercial arbitration – on a system for resolving private commercial disputes, not the public type of disputes which in fact arise”.

EU Commission Publishes the Second Annual Report on the implementation of Free Trade Agreements

07/11/2018

The second Annual Report on the implementation of free trade agreements published by the EU Commission on 31st October 2018 is certainly good news for EU trade.

The report covers 35 of the most economically significant EU trade agreements with 62 partners in effect in 2017. As first report published in November 2017 the second Annual Report is meant to increase awareness and transparency on how the Commission implements free trade agreements, in line with the EU Commission’s "Trade for All" Communication.

According to the report, in the relevant period:

  • EU exports continue to grow, with a peak 12.2% increase in EU exports overall with South Korea and 7% increase in EU exports to Canada under CETA in only nine months following its entry into force (October 2017 to June 2018)
  • The trend is particularly positive with regards to the "new generation" EU trade agreements, in particular for transport equipment like railways and tramways – registering a 108% increase vis-à-vis the previous period - or mineral fuels and oils (51% increase).
  • In relation to agri-foods trade, EU exports under comprehensive trade agreements concluded after 2006 increased by 6.2%, a higher rate than EU agrifood exports overall (which increased by 5.1%).
  • All EU trade agreements concluded since 2010 include provisions on promoting trade and sustainable development.

EU sends mission to Myanmar to assess the human rights situation on the ground

01/11/2018

After having the notification to the Myanmar authorities announced by Trade Commissioner Malmström in early October 2019, on 18-31 October the European Commission and the European External Action Service sent an emergency, high-level EU mission to the country to assess the human rights situation on the ground.

The aim of the mission is declaredly that of assessing the permanence of the condition for the participation of Myanmar in the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.

The EBA scheme, stablished by Regulation 978/2012, is part of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences, which includes instruments accompanying developing countries to achieve sustainable development using the economic engines of trade.

Specifically, EBA unilaterally grants full duty-free, quota free access for all products except arms and ammunition to countries classified by the UN as Least Developed Countries.

After a previous suspension, Myanmar was reinstated as an EBA beneficiary in 2013. The EU is, together with the United States, Japan, Denmark and the ILO, also part of the "Initiative to Improve Labour Rights and Practices in Myanmar" designed to promote the compliance with ILO international labour standards and responsible business practices.

In the last few years, Myanmar has widely used the EBA scheme, under which fall 95% of all of Myanmar's EBA-eligible exports to the EU.

The EU is hoping to use its economic leverage under the EBA to push the country to find a long-term solution to the recent very serious humanitarian and human rights situation in Rakhine State.

EU and Indonesia Complete the 6th Round of Negotiations for an FTA

24/10/2018

On 22 October the EU and Indonesia completed the 6th round of negotiations for a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.

The negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and Indonesia were officially launched on 18 July 2016. The fifth negotiating round took place in Brussels from from 9 to 13 July 2018.

Of particular interest will be whether the Agreement will be divided in an Investment Protection Agreement and a Free Trade Agreement, analogously to Singapore and Vietnam.

A Council’s decision on the point is likely to be the high level policy decisionreferred to in the report of the 5th round of negotiations as a ground to explain the limited discussions held by the two negotiating teams on investment dispute settlement and in particular, the Investment Court System (ICS), transparency and consent.

The Free Trade Agreement will also develop a key aspect of the overall relationship between the EU and Indonesia which is framed by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement which entered into force on 1 May 2014.

The next round of negotiations is planned for 11 to 15 March 2019 in Brussels.

European Commission adopts the EU-Vietnam Agreementas

17/10/2018

The European Commission today adopted the EU-Vietnam trade and investment agreements (Free Trade Agreement and  Investment Protection Agreement), the first step for their signature and conclusion.

The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement will eliminate over 99% of all tariffs, and partly remove the rest through limited zero-duty quotas, the “Tariff Rate Quotas” in a way which goes beyond the rules set out in the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade agreement in terms of reduction of non-Tariff barriers. In particular, Vietnam has committed to increasing the use of international standards when drafting its regulations. The agreement also contains a chapter on sanitary and phytosanitary measures, to make trade in plant and animal products easier.

Further, the FTA:

  • opens Vietnam’s public procurement market so that EU companies will be able to bid for public contracts with Vietnamese ministries and important state-owned enterprises
  • opens the Vietnamese market for EU services providers in sectors like business services; environmental services and banking
  • opens Vietnamese investments in manufacturing in key sector such as ceramics and fertilisers
  • commits Vietnam to a high level of protection that goes beyond the standards of WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to protect EU innovations, artworks and brands 

Importantly, the EU-Vietnam FTA develops in the framework of the EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement - which allows measures considered as appropriate in the case of breaches of human rights, including the suspension of the Trade Agreement. It also includes a robust and comprehensive chapter on trade and sustainable development, with an extensive list of commitments.

In terms of dispute settlement mechanisms, the trade mechanism set up in the FTA is faster and more compelling than the WTO system. As for the IPA, the EU-Vietnam agreement includes modern rules on investment protection enforceable through the new Investment Court System, which ensures that the right of the governments on both sides to regulate in the interest of their citizens is preserved.

The Commission is now submitting to the Council the proposals for signature and conclusion of both agreements. Once authorised by the Council, the agreements will be signed and presented to the European Parliament for consent. Once the European Parliament has given its consent, the trade agreement can then be concluded by the Council and enter into force.

The Investment Protection Agreement with Vietnam will be ratified by Member States according to their respective internal procedures.

A busy week ahead for EU leaders

15/10/2018

This upcoming week is a busy one for the EU Council and an important one for the future of EU trade.

On 17-18 October heads of state or government will discuss Brexit, migration, internal security, external relations and euro zone reform.

On 18-19 October the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) will address the two topics of connectivity and support for multilateralism under the heading "Europe and Asia: global partners for global challeges.

On 19 October the 9th EU-Republic of Korea summit will focus on bilateral relations, the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement and the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

On 19 October EU and ASEAN leaders meet in Brussels to discuss the future of EU-ASEAN relations and how to reinforce their cooperation.

EU Commission confirms anti-dumping measures on Russian and Ukrainian steel pipes and tubes

02/10/2018

In the framework of the EU Anti-Dumping policy, yesterday the Commission adopted a Decision confirming anti-dumping duties on imports of certain seamless pipes and tubes of iron or non-alloy steel originating in Russia and Ukraine for a further period of 5 years.

The Decision follows an Expiry Review initiated by the Commission due to the concerns in the European Union’s relevant industries that the expiration in 2 years’ time of the anti-dumping duties already in place with the two countries may threaten the relevant European market. Indeed, on 30 March 2017 the Defence Committee of the Seamless Steel Tubes Industry of the European Union lodged a request for such an expiry review on behalf of Union producers representing more than 25 %, of the total Union production of certain seamless pipes and tubes. The request was based on the grounds that the expiry of the measures would be likely to result in a continuation of dumping for Ukraine and recurrence of dumping for Russia and recurrence of injury to the Union industry.

The Commission’s Decision confirms the anti-dumping duties on Russia and Ukraine for ampther 5 years. Specifically, the decision is based on the following considerations:

  1. the continuation of dumping practices in the review investigation period from both countries;
  2. the significant spare capacities available (combining for more than 800 000 tonnes);
  3. the attractiveness of the Union market, the Commission concluded that there is a strong likelihood that if measures were allowed to lapse, dumped imports from Ukraine and Russia would respectively continue to increase and recur in significant volumes.
  4. The still vulnerable position of the Union’s industry, which would make the situation even more difficult should the measures be repealed

The duties range from 24.1% to 35.8% for imports from Russia and from 12.3% to 25.7% for imports from Ukraine.

Mauritania signs the Regional Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between West Africa and the EU

22/09/2018

On 21 September, Mauritania signed the Regional Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between West Africa and the EU, signalling one essential step forward the adoption of the Agreement, which will be open after Nigeria’s ratification.

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partners engaged in regional economic integration processes

The EPA with West Africa covers goods and development cooperation.

The EPA also includes the possibility to hold further negotiations on sustainable development, services, investment and other trade-related issues in the future.

Until the adoption of the full regional EPA with West Africa, 'stepping stone' Economic Partnership Agreements with Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana entered into provisional application on 3 September 2016 and 15 December 2016 respectively.

The European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy adopt a Joint Communication setting out the EU's vision for a new and comprehensive strategy to better connect Europe and Asia

18/09/2018

The European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy today adopted a Joint Communication that sets out the EU's vision for a new and comprehensive strategy to better connect Europe and Asia.

This Communication is part of the EU contribution for the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit, taking place on 18-19 October 2018 in Brussels, which will offer the opportunity to promote connectivity and advance cooperation with Asian partners. The summit, organised every two years to set out the priorities of the partnership, brings together 53 partners, including the European Union, 30 European countries (28 EU member states, Norway, Switzerland), 21 Asian countries and the ASEAN Secretariat

The Communication builds upon the 2016 EU's Global Strategy which recognised that connectivity requires that the EU steps up its engagement, noting the link between the EU's security and prosperity and the increasing importance of a “connected Asia”.

As for its content, the Communication highlights how the EU strategy to engage with its neighbours and Asian partners to:

  • Develop efficient connections and networks between Europe and Asia through priority transport corridors, digital links and energy cooperation at the service of people and respective economies.
  • Establish partnerships for connectivity based on commonly agreed rules and standards enabling a better governance of flows of goods, people, capital and services.
  • Address the sizeable investment gaps through improved mobilisation of resources, reinforced leveraging of EU’s financial resources and strengthened international partnerships.

To support this strategy, the European Commission has proposed for the next budget of the European Union to increase the European Union's external action budget to €123 billion for the period 2021-2027. This represents an increase of 30% compared to the previous period.

According to the Communication, all EU initiatives will be informed to principles of sustainable, comprehensive and international rules-based connectivity.

The Commission now invites the comments and support on the strategy from all the other Institutions, the Member States, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Investment Bank and relevant stakeholder.

The EU and Mercosur negotiating teams meet today

10/09/2018

The 34th negotiating round between the teams of EU and Mercosur has started today in Montevideo, Uruguay. The talks will continue until 14 September.

The EU is negotiating a trade deal with the four founding Mercosur states - Argentina, Brazil Paraguay and Uruguay, as part of a broader Association Agreement between the two regions.

The goals of the new EU-Mercosur trade deal is to:

  • Remove these barriers and help EU firms – especially smaller ones – to export more
  • Strengthen people's rights at work and environmental protection, encourage companies to act responsibly, and uphold high food safety standards
  • Protect quality EU food and drink products from imitations

Since these negotiations were resumed in October 2016, the Commission has published a series of reports summarising the progress made during the negotiation rounds, which can be found at this Link.

EU Commission not to renew EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures on solar panels from China.

03/09/2018

On Monday 3 September the EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures on solar panels from China adopted for the first time in December 2013 have expired.

The said measures, which implement the EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy policies, were imposed by the Council in December 2013 following an anti-dumping investigation, for a period of two years.

The partial interim review of the anti-dumping and countervailing measures applicable to imports of the product carried out by the Commission in 2015, brought to their extension for a period of 18 months.

After a consultation with the Member States and considered the conditions of the solar panels market, the EU Commission has announced that the measures, expiring on September 3, are not to be renewed.

In so doing, the Commission rejected the EU industry’s request for an expiry review investigation.

 

Gambia signs the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between West Africa and the EU

20/08/2018

Gambia is officially the 14th Western Africa country to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.

The aim of the Agreement is to:

  • help West Africa to integrate better into the global trading system and will support investment and economic growth in the region.
  • increase West African exports to the EU
  • stimulate investment and contribute to developing productive capacity, with a positive effect on employment.

This recent development confirms the position of the EU as the most open market for African exports: by means of numerous bilateral and regional agreements, most African countries have fully free access to the EU market.

The EU relationship with African Countries is mostly based on Economic Partnership Agreements, trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific  partners engaged in regional economic integration processes.

CETA Civil Society Forum

10/08/2018

In line with its effort of taking into account civil society’s views on the EU trade and investment policy, on 12 September the European Commission will hold in Brussels a Civil Society Forum on CETA.

During the meeting, officials from the European Commission and the Government of Canada will exchange views with the participants on the sustainable development aspects of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement.

The discussion will include the implementation of Chapter 22 (Trade and Sustainable Development), Chapter 23 (Trade and labour) and Chapter 24 (Trade and environment).

The discussion will also be web streamed. The web link will be published shortly here.

Prior registration is essential and can be carried out here until 7th September.

The Commission publishes report and textual proposals from the first round of negotiations with Australia and New Zealand

01/08/2018

The Commission has published reports from the first rounds of trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, as well as a set of EU text proposals covering 12 negotiating areas presented so far in the talks with Australia and proposals covering 11 negotiating areas presented so far to New Zealand.

Officials from the EU and Australia met in Brussels from 2 to 6 July 2018.

The first round of EU-New Zealand FTA negotiations was held from 16 to 20 July 2018 in Brussels.

The negotiations were mostly based on the EU textual proposals which can be found here for Australia and here for New Zealand.

Outcome of the meeting between Michael Barnier, European Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting the European Union and Dominic Raab, UK Secretary of State for Exiting the EU

26/07/2018

The press conference held by Michael Barnier on the outcome of his meeting with Mr Dominic Raab brings much needed clarifications on the step forwards in - and the challenges connected to - the definition of the UK-EU relations after Brexit.

On the future relationship, Mr Bariner was “particularly pleased” with the UK proposals on security and foreign policy and external security.

In contrast, more doubts remain on the future economic relationship.

The common agreed denominator is that both the EU and the UK want an ambitious Free Trade Agreement.

However, Mr Barnier highlighted two main challenges arising out the definition of such an agreement: 

1. The EU will not delegate the application of its customs policy and rules, VAT and excise duty collection to the UK, as also suggested in the White Paper adopted by HM Government;

2. The backstop option to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland remains critical.

A new phase of close friendship and strong trade relations between the United States and the EU

25/07/2018

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and the US President Donald Trump have announced today a new phase in the Transatlantic relationships.

In a joint statement released shortly after their meeting in Washington today, President Juncker and President Trump declare their commitment to close friendship, strong and equal trade relations, and commitment to global security, prosperity, and fight against terrorism.

Notably, the joint statement does not only list aims but identifies concrete actions, such higher imports of liquefied natural gas of the EU from the United States,

It also declares that a mixed Executive Working Group will be immediately set up to carry out this joint agenda and identify short-term measures to facilitate commercial exchanges and assess existing tariff measures.

What instead seems to remain a statement of principle, is the declaration to “resolve the steel and aluminium tariff issues and retaliatory tariffs”.

Advancements in the EU-Japan relationships

11/07/2018

On 6 July, the Council adopted a package of decisions on the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan (EPA), including:

  • a decision on the signature of the agreement;
  • a decision to request the consent of the European Parliament for the conclusion of the agreement.

The negotiations for the EPA were launched in 2013. The agreement aims at removing trade barriers with Japan by means, among others, of: elimination of customs duties, elimination of non-tariff barriers, and opening of the market of trade in services.

The Council also adopted a decision on the signing and provisional application of a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the EU and Japan on 26 June 2018.

The SPA is a legally binding pact covering not only political dialogue and policy cooperation, but also cooperation on regional and global challenges, including environment and climate change, development policy and disaster relief, and security policy.

In the meanwhile, discussions continue between the EU and Japan on the finalisation of an agreement on investment protection standards and dispute resolution.

On 11 June, the EU Chief Negotiator for investment protection, Maria Martin-Prat, met with the new Japanese Chief Negotiator, the Deputy Assistant Minister, Teiji Hayashi to further discuss he main elements of investment protection. While there is a large degree of convergence on investment protection standards, differences persist between the two sides with regard to the mechanisms of dispute settlement.

EU and Australia complete the first round of trade talks

06/07/2018

After the Council of the European Union authorised opening negotiations for a trade agreement between the EU and Australia on 22 May 2018, today the EU and Australia have completed the first round of negotiations.

Negotiators of both parties met in Brussels from 2 to 6 July 2018.

The trade negotiations aim at removing trade barriers (tariff and non-tariff ones) and opening the Australian procurement market to EU firms. The negotiations will also regard provisions on trade and sustainable development.

So far the EU and Australia have been conducting their trade and economic relations under the 2008 EU-Australian Partnership Framework.

The EU launches negotiations for two comprehensive and ambitious trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand.

26/06/2018

On 18 and 21 June, Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström met respectively with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trade Minister of Australia Steven Ciobo and with New Zealand’s Minister for Trade David Parker to officially launch negotiations for the two comprehensive and ambitious trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand.

The negotiations aim at removing barriers to trade in goods and services, creating opportunities for small and large companies, as well as setting ambitious rules in line with other trade agreements of the EU, contributing to shape global trade.

The first formal round of talks with the Australian negotiating team will take place in Brussels from 2 to 6 July.

The first formal round of talks with the New Zealand negotiating team will take place in Brussels from 16 to 20 July.

The speeches held by EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström at the Australian National University and at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs can be found here and here.

EU advances trade talks with Mercosur, Chile, Tunisia and China

26/06/2018

The EU’s trade negotiations with Mercosur, Chile, Tunisia and China proceed expeditiously.

The latest round of negotiations with Chile took place in Brussels from 28 May to 1 June 2018. In total, 22 negotiating groups met, which resulted in constructive exchanges and substantive progress in most area. The Commission also publishes today three new text proposals, on animal and plant health, trade and sustainable development, and trade and gender equality. The result of the talks are summarised in this report. The Parties agreed on work in relation to the various areas and contacts will continue with the aim of advancing in all areas in preparation for the next round of negotiations, the date of which has yet to be confirmed.

The second round of negotiations for an agreement on a EU-Tunisia Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) was held in Tunis from 28 to 31 May. A third full round is expected to take place in the autumn in Brussels. The negotiating teams met jointly representatives of civil society including from trade unions, employers organisations and non-governmental organisations to discuss how they see the opportunities and challenges of a future DCFTA. A report of the negotiations will be published on the EU Trade website shortly.

The XXXIIIrd negotiation round of the Trade Part of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement took place from 4 to 8 June in Montevideo, Uruguay. Negotiations covered the following areas: (1) Trade in Goods; (2) Wines and Spirits; (3) Rules of Origin; (4) Technical Barriers to Trade; (5) Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures; (6) Services and Establishment; (7) Government Procurement; (8) Intellectual Property (including Geographical Indications), and (9) SMEs. Both texts on disciplines and market access were discussed. The summary report of the negotiations is accessible here.

On 25 June  EU and China held in Beijing the 7th annual EU-China High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue  Both sides agreed to exchange market access offers at the upcoming Summit to give political impetus to an ambitious EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, both in terms of investment liberalisation and protection. China confirmed its commitment to acceding to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA)

The EU retaliates to US tariffs on iron and steel by endorsing rebalancing duties on US imports

06/06/2018

As a response to the US tariffs on iron and steel imports, which affect the EU and its Member States from 1 June, the College of Commissioners endorsed today the decision to impose additional duties on US products valued at up to €2.8 billion of trade.

The Commission has announced that the remaining rebalancing duties on trade (valued at €3.6 billion against the loss of EU exports worth €6.4 billion) will take place at a later stage – in three years' time or after a positive finding in WTO dispute settlement if that should come sooner.

The full list of affected products has already been notified to the WTO and includes various products, ranging from tobacco to wishy and peanut butter.

The EU and Canada have also requested WTO consultations with the US. In their separate filings, they both claim that the US tariffs are inconsistent with the WTO's GATT 1994 and the Agreement on Safeguards.

The EU to take action against the US decision to lift the exemption from the steel and aluminium imports tariffs

31/05/2018

Wilbur Ross, the US Commerce Secretary, has announced that the US will lift the exemptions from the steel and aluminium tariffs granted to the EU, Canada and Mexico on 7 March. According to Mr Ross, insufficient progress has been made in talks with allies to reduce America’s trade deficit during the last months.

The exemptions from the tariff of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on imported aluminium, imposed on the basis of national security interests will thus expire at midnight 1 June Washington time

After meeting jointly with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer to discuss how to tackle China’s steel overcapacity and other issues, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Japan’s Hiroshige Seko warned that the tariffs move was unjustified

The EU Commission and many Member State leaders harshly criticised the US administration’s move.

Specifically, the President of the EU Commission, Mr Juncker, stated that the US now leaves the EU “with no choice but to proceed with a WTO dispute settlement case and with the imposition of additional duties on a number of imports from the US”. He then added that “we will defend the Union's interests, in full compliance with international trade law."

The College of Commissioners, which met today, gave the political endorsement to the proposal presented by President Jean-Claude Juncker, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström for “legal and proportionate” reactions.

The EU will launch legal proceedings against the US in the WTO on 1 June.

GDPR 25 05 2018

25/05/2018

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The Council authorises the Commission to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand

22/05/2018

The Council today authorised the Commission to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand and adopted negotiating directives for each of the negotiations.

The recommendations to the Council to launch negotiations for these trade agreements, together with the respective draft negotiating directives, were presented by the European Commission on 13 September.

The directives aim primarily at further reducing existing barriers to trade, removing customs duties on goods, and giving better access for services and public procurement in Australia and New Zealand.

Both trade agreements will promote sustainable development through trade-related provisions on labour and environment. Indeed, in welcoming such directives, the President of the EU Commission, Mr Jean Claude Junker, stressed that the two agreements will build on recent successful agreements such as those with Canada, Japan, “expanding the alliance of partners committed to open and rules-based global trade.

The two agreements are estimated to increase EU exports to New Zealand and Australia countries by about a third in the long term.

The WTO issues a compliance panel report on the Airbus saga

15/05/2018

Today, the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a compliance panel report on the Airbus saga between the EU and the US

The case, brought in 2004, relates to the subsidization of Airbus by France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom for the development and production of its series of large civil aircraft programmes. According to the request for consultations from the United States, measures by the EC and the member States provide subsidies that are inconsistent with their obligations under the SCM Agreement and GATT 1994.

The case was concluded with a first decision of the Appellate Body in 2011, which essentially concluded that Europe had indeed subsidized Airbus from 1968 through 2006. The US subsequently (30 March 2012) the United States requested the establishment of a compliance panel.

In its decision on compliance today, the WTO appeals panel agreed with earlier findings that the European repayable launch investment loans do not constitute a prohibited subsidy, it ruled that Europe needs to make modifications and correct errors related to the A350 and A380.

However, the WTO rejected 94% of 218 claims of “adverse effects” such as lost sales, restricting those to only the A350XWB and A380.

Welcoming the decision, Commissioner Malmström declared that the EU will now “take swift action to bring itself into line with WTO rules as regards its remaining obligations.

The EU Commission insists that it should be permanently excluded from import duties after the US announces that the EU will be exempt from the steel and aluminium tariffs only until 1 June

08/05/2018

The European Commission criticized the US Government’s decision of merely delaying the imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs imposed under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 until June 1 rather than cancelling the duties outright.

In a statement released today, the EU executive condemns as “unjustified” this one-month temporary exemption from steel and aluminium tariffs granted by US President Trump to its “allies” Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

The statement highlights that “Overcapacity in the steel and aluminium sectors does not originate in the EU and that, contrarily, the EU is actively engaged “at all possible levels with the US and other partners to find a solution to this issue.”

Among these, notably features the trilateral cooperation with Japan and the US  launched at the sidelines of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial in December of last year.

The Council adopts conclusions on the negotiation and conclusion of EU trade agreements

08/05/2018

Today, the Council adopted conclusions on the negotiation and conclusion of EU trade agreements.

The conclusions represent a reaction to the Commission declared intention to adopt recommend, as a result of the opinion of the European Court of Justice 2/15 on the division of competencies between the Union and its Member States for the conclusion of the EU Singapore FTA, draft negotiating directives for FTAs covering exclusive EU competence and separate mixed investment agreements.

The document sets out the key principles that will underpin the Council's approach towards trade negotiations from now on.

To begin with, the Council stresses that decisions on signature and conclusion of trade and investment agreement are taken by the Council, who will decide, on a case-by-case basis, on their splitting. According to the Council, this requirement is necessary to allow Member States' governments to consult their national parliaments and other stakeholders.

The Council also adds that, depending on their content, association agreements should be mixed. The ones that are currently being negotiated, such as with Mexico, Mercosur and Chile, will remain mixed agreements.

As for EU investment agreements, these should “in principle be negotiated in parallel to FTAs.

The Council is also declaredly considering the separate agreements on trade and investment with Singapore, as proposed by the Commission, with a view to adopting the decisions on their signature as soon as possible.

Finally, in this decision, the Council declares that, whilst respecting the voting rules applicable under the Treaties, the Council will continue endeavouring to obtain to the greatest extent possible a consensus in order to ensure that all Member States' interests and concerns are adequately respected in trade agreements.

The EU and Japan continue negotiations on investment protection standards and dispute resolution

26/04/2018

After presenting to the Council the outcome of the negotiations for the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement finalised in December last year, on 26 April 2018 the EU Commission - in the person of the Chief Negotiator for investment protection Maria Martin-Prat - met with Japanese representatives to further discuss investment protection standards and dispute resolution.

The firm commitment on both sides is to move towards an agreement in the investment protection negotiations as soon as possible, in light of the shared commitment to a stable and secure investment environment in Europe and Japan.

More specifically, during these negotiations the EU has tabled to Japan its reformed proposal on the Investment Court System. For the EU, it is clear that there can be no return to the old-style Investor to State Dispute Settlement System (ISDS).

European Commission proposes signature and conclusion of Japan and Singapore agreements

18/04/2018

Today the Commission has presented the outcome of negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan and the trade and investment agreements with Singapore to the Council for their signature and conclusion.

The proposal for a Council Decision on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, of the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Japan comes after the finalisation on 8 December 2017 of the negotiations between the two parties. In parallel to the EPA, the EU and Japan are also negotiating a Strategic Partnership Agreement, a legally binding pact covering not only political dialogue and policy cooperation, but also cooperation on regional and global challenges, including environment and climate change, development policy and disaster relief, and security policy.

The proposal for a Council Decision on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Singapore brings about some modifications to the text of the Agreement finalised by the parties in October 2014 to take into account the outcome of European Court of Justice’s Opinion no. 2/15, delivered on 21 December 2016.

In view of the Court’s Opinion, and in light of the wide-ranging discussions on the architecture with the Council and the European Parliament following the Opinion, the initially negotiated text has been adjusted to create two self-standing agreements: a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and an Investment Protection Agreement (IPA).

In view of the division of competences between the EU and its Member States set by the Court in Opinion 2/15, all the areas covered by the EU-Singapore FTA fall within the competence of the EU and, more particularly, within the scope of Articles 91, 100(2) and 207 TFEU. All substantive provisions on investment protection under the IPA, to the extent that these apply to foreign direct investment, are covered under Article 207 TFEU. The EU-Singapore FTA is thus to be signed by the Union pursuant to a decision of the Council based on Article 218(5) TFEU and concluded by the Union pursuant to a decision of the Council based on Article 218(6) TFEU, following the European Parliament’s consent. The EU-Singapore IPA is to be signed by the Union pursuant to a decision of the Council based on Article 218(5) TFEU and concluded by the Union pursuant to a decision of the Council based on Article 218(6) TFEU, following the European Parliament’s consent and ratification by the Member States in accordance with their respective internal procedures.

Another notable innovation of the EU-SingaporeAgreement post-Opinion 2/15 is the replacement in the IPA of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system with a standing international and fully independent dispute resolution system, consisting of permanent First Instance and Appeal Tribunals that will conduct dispute settlement proceedings in a transparent and impartial manner.

EU Commission to hold an event on Decent Work, Corporate Responsibility and the EU-Central America Association Agreement

11/04/2018

On 16 and 17 May 2018 the European Commission will hold an event on Decent Work, Corporate Responsibility and the EU-Central America Association Agreement.

The event of May 16-17 is part of the commitments included in the Agreement to provide a framework for open dialogue on trade and sustainable development aspects relating to the implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development Title in relations between the parties themselves. The trade pillar of the EU-Central America Association Agreement includes a Trade and Sustainable Development Title, covering the parties’ commitments on labour and environment-related matters. These commitments include, amongst other things, implementation of the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), multilateral environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Building on the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the event on Decent Work, Corporate Responsibility thus aims at fostering the dialogue among business and civil society, policymakers and international organisations to discuss international guidelines and best practices on responsible business conduct and their contribution to SDG8, the role of government in supporting contributions of the private sector to SDG8 as well as best practices in the textile and sugar sectors.

The event will be held in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Further details and information on the registration will be posted on this page.

Council publishes negotiating directives for a multilateral investment court

20/03/2018

The Council published today the negotiating directives for a multilateral investment court.

The court, proposed for the first time by the Commission in the negotiations for the TTIP, is a tool to move away from the system of ad hoc arbitration set up in most Investment Agreements and lay down a more transparent, coherent and fair dispute settlement system to deal with investor complaints.

In the directives, the Council also mandated the Commission to strive to achieve the greatest level of transparency in the negotiations for the multilateral court with the other interested parties, in order to ensure the broadest possible participation in the discussion to the civil society.

EU Commission to hold Stakeholder meeting on the establishment of a multilateral investment court

12/03/2018

On Friday 13 April 2018, from 10:00 to 12:00, the European Commission will hold a stakeholder meeting on the multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution including the establishment of a multilateral investment court.

The Multilateral Investment Court proposed by the Commission, and now included in CETA, is a permanent body to decide investment disputes, which represents a major departure from the ad hoc arbitral system of investor-to-State dispute settlement (ISDS). The idea of a full-fledged two-tier court to deal with investor-state disputes under investment Treaty is also being discussed by the UNCITRAL III Working Group. The submission made to the Group by the EU can be found here.

In view of establishing an ever-closer cooperation between the Institutions and the civil society, at the meeting the Commission will update stakeholders on the latest developments in this area at the EU and international level and exchange views on the latest relevant EU policy developments.

To participate, register at this link before Friday 6 April.

Commission unveils a 15 steps plan to further the implementation and enforcement of Trade and Sustainable Development chapters in EU Free Trade Agreements

01/03/2018

On 27 February 2018, Trade Commissioner Malmström presented a non-paper outlining 15 actions points to improve Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters in EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

The document collects the results of an eight-months debate with the Institutions, the Member States and the civil society started by the Commission in July 2017.

In the paper, the Commission developed a set of 15 concrete and practicable actions to be taken to revamp the TSD chapters, building on recommendations received and categorised under four broad headings:

A.Working Together – Through the following actions: 1. Partnering with Member States and the European Parliament and 2. Working with international organisations;

B.Enabling and civil society including the Social Partners to play a greater role in implementation – By: 3. Facilitating the monitoring role of civil society including the Social Partners; 4. Extending the scope for civil society, including the Social Partners, to the whole FTA; 5. Taking action regarding responsible business conduct;

C.Delivering – 6. Country priorities; 7. Assertive enforcement; 8. Encourage early ratification of core international agreements; 9. Reviewing the TSD implementation effectiveness; 10. Handbook for implementation; 11. Step up resources; 12. Climate action; 13. Trade and labour;

D.Transparency and Communication – With: 14. More transparency and better communication, and 15. Time-bound response to TSD submissions.

In the view of the Commission, this list is however not exhaustive: further actions and other measures could also be taken depending on the necessity or the actual case. In this view, the Commission sees continuous engagement with Member States, the European Parliament, interested stakeholders and the public as a crucial action to continuously analyse the effectiveness of the implementation of the TSD chapters (e.g. through review clauses; annual FTA implementation reports; ex-post impact assessments).

The importance of implementing these actions to reach the full potential of trade not as a “weapon of intimidation” but rather as an instrument of growth good for “stakeholders, […] consumers, employees, the communities they work in and the environment was also reaffirmed by Trade Commissioner Malmström during her address at Amfori on March 12, 2018.

The paper is part of the broader EU Sustainable Development Strategy which aims to identify and develop actions to enable the EU to achieve a continuous long-term improvement of quality of life through the creation of sustainable communities able to manage and use resources efficiently.

The new CPTPP text released

21/02/2018

Yesterday, the eleven states parties to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have released the text of their new agreement, expected to be ratified by March.

The new CPTPP, renegotiated as a result of the withdrawal by the US Administration from the original TPP earlier last year, largely incorporates the previous provisions.

However, it still includes some notable changes, especially with regards to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

This agreement between the sc. TPP11 constitutes an interesting development for the EU: it not only is expressly open to ratification to "any State or separate customs territory", but also it constitutes yet another reinforcement (together with ASEAN and RCEP) of the Asian region as a powerful standard-setter in international trade and investment.

The Commission publishes a report on the outcome of the second round of renegotiations of the existing EU-Chile Association Agreement

10/02/2018

After the conclusion of the second round of negotiations with Chile for the modernisation of the existing Association Agreement, last February 6 the Commission published a report on the results achieved, as well as all negotiating textual proposals.

Overall, all seventeen negotiating groups that met on15-18 January m ade good progress.

Among other things, the parties exchanged preliminary views on the overall architecture of the future investment chapter, which, in the EU proposal, should also include access to the negotiating Investment Court System.

First meeting of the new EU Commission's expert group on EU trade agreements

01/02/2018

Today, the new European Commission’s new expert group on EU trade agreements held its first meeting.

The initiative of setting up the Group is part of the European Commission’ broader aim to have a transparent and accountable trade policy based on consultations with all parts of European civil society.

The group is formed of European-level non-governmental organisations representing business, trade unions, consumers, the environment and other areas of interest for trade.

The number of participants to the Group and the variety of their backgrounds is intended to foster in-depth dialogue on trade in the EU and engage with the Commission in a discussion on old and new issues in the field, including the proposed multilateral Investment Court, e-commerce, trade and gender, trade and consumers, and provisions in trade agreements for smaller and medium-sized firms.

The Commission believes that the Group’s input will help it in its ongoing efforts to both ensuring that EU trade policy is state-of-the-art and progressive, and establishing a closer link with the needs and concerns of the civil society at the national level.

Council publishes the mandate given to the Commission to modernise the existing association agreement with Chile

24/01/2018

On January 22 the Council decided to publish the mandate given to the Commission to modernise the existing Association Agreement with Chile.

The update of the EU-Chile relations, launched on November 16, 2017, aims at deepening the relations between the block and the South American country by enhancing existing cooperation on political, security and trade matters.

The publication of the Council of the EU’s mandate is especially important in terms of the Commission-led commitment to greater transparency of the EU in its external relations, by reason of the mixed political and economic nature of the Agreement.

Indeed, such decision constitutes a first-of-its-kind, as never before the Council had made public the entire negotiating mandate for this kind of agreements

The decision has been applauded by the Commission. In particular, Trade Commissioner Malmström underlined the crucial role of transparency to gain EU citizens’ trust in the work of the Institutions.

The European Commission and the European External Action Service publish report on the impact of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences for the period 2016-2017

19/01/2018

The EU Commission and the European External Action Service published today a report and a detailed accompanying document on the impact of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) for the period 2016-2017.

The GSP - which entered into force in 2014 - is the EU's main trade instrument to support developing countries to achieve sustainable development using the economic engines of trade. As a tool for the promotion of universal values of human rights, social justice and environmental protection, the GSP is an integral part of the Commission's "Trade for All" strategy

The GSP consists of three different arrangements that grant to developing countries privileged access to the EU market (Standard GSP, GSP+, or Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance and EBA - Everything But Arms). The idea is that, by having a privileged access to the single market, the developing countries party to the GPA have the opportunity generate additional revenues via international trade that can help reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development, human rights and good governance.

The report highlights an overall positive impact of the GSP on developing countries, both in economic and non economic terms. Since its entry into force, exports from countries to the EU benefitting from these tariff cuts rose by nearly a quarter to a yearly amount of Euro 63 billion. Least developed countries benefited the most: their exports to the EU increased by nearly 40% and reached €23.5 billion in 2016.The report also points out the progress made on issues such as women’s empowerment, child and forced labour, torture, illegal drugs trafficking and climate change.

The documents published today also address the shortcomings that still need to be tackled to reach the aims of the GSP, which include the implementation and enforcement of the relevant legislation by the countries benefiting of the scheme.

The EU Commission discusses with civil society the outcome of the debriefing on the WTO 11th Ministerial Conference and the way forward for the EU

11/01/2018

On January 24 the European Commission will hold a meeting with civil society on the unsuccessful outcome of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, which took place in Buenos Aires, from 10 to 13 December 2017.

The meeting aims at a views’ exchange between the Commission and the civil society on the WTO Conference, which will also help the European Institution delineate its position in the ongoing discussions with other WTO Members on the way forward for the WTO.

To register for the meeting and for the provisional list of the organisations that have registered to participate, follow this link.