2018 2017 2016

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.