2017 2016

The EU and Japan have finalised Economic and Partnership Agreement

08/12/2017

Today the Union and Japan have confirmed the conclusion of the negotiation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Based on the political agreement in principle reached during the EU-Japan Summit on 6 July 2017, the EU-Japan EPA represents the biggest bilateral trade agreement ever negotiated by the Union.

The key elements of the EPA are highlighted here.

With todays' announcement the legal verification of the text by the two contracting parties has started. Once this exercise is completed, the English text of the EPA will be translated into the other official languages of the Union. Then, the Commission will submit the agreement for the approval of the European Parliament and EU MSs.

The EU and Japan will continue working on investments' protection, a chapter which is not included in the new EPA.

Case C‑600/14: mixity in the European Union's Free Trade Agreements

06/12/2017

With its judgment in case C-600/14, rendered this morning, the Grand Chamber of the ECJ has substantiated the Court's decision on the Singapore Opinion (Opinion 2/15), excluding that findings of shared competence render mixity mandatory.

The EU judges have first recalled that the Treaties distinguish between the Union having an external competence (216(1) TFEU) and the exclusive or shared nature of such competence (Article 3(2) TFEU). The Union may, thus, well have an external competence that falls outside the situations laid down in the Article 3(2) TFEU.

The ECJ then substantiated its position on mixity adopted in Opinion 2/15, where it found that non-direct foreign investment provisions (shared competence of the EU and MS), could not be approved by the Union alone. The Court specified that such finding was purely circumstantial, as it did no more than mirroring “the fact that, as stated by the Council [...], there was no possibility of the required majority being obtained within the Council for the Union to be able to exercise alone the external competence that it shares with the Member States in this area”.

The text of the ruling can be found here.

Draft EU-Mercosur trade treaty leaked

06/12/2017

The Dutch branch of Greenpeace has published today 171 pages of classified documents dealing with the content of a trade treaty between EU and Mercosur.

Current negotiations between EU and Mercosur are governed by an inter-regional Framework Cooperation Agreement.

EU Commission's upcoming appointments with civil society

20/11/2017

In compliance with its committment towards an enhanced level of transparency in the field of international trade, in the next few days the European Commission has two meetings lined up with civil society.

On November 27, the EU Commission will exchange views with representatives of civil society on the EU's position and proposals for the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, to will be held in Buenos Aires in December 2017.

On December 15, the EU Commission will debrief civil society organisations on the status of the EU-Indonesia trade negotiations and exchange views on the topic. For more information and to register for the event, visit this link.

The EU Commission to hold a stakeholder meeting on the multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution and the possible establishment of a multilateral investment court.

03/11/2017

On November 20, 2017, the Commission will hold a stakeholder meeting on the multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution and the establishment of a multilateral investment court.

The meeting aims at exchanging views on the topic with all interested individuals and entities.

The event will be held in Brussels, Lord Jenkins room, Charlemagne building, Rue de la Loi 170, from 14:30 to 17:30.

Registration is available until November 17 via this Link.

The event will also be livestreamed. The link will be available here.

European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 containing the Parliament’s recommendation to the Council on the proposed negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with Australia

26/10/2017

In a resolution adopted on 26 October 2017, the European Parliament welcomed the negotiations with Australia but requested the inclusion of some aspects in the negotiating directive. It called for the respect of EU's consumer protection standards and for the negotiation of chapters on micro-enterprises and SMEs, on sustainable development, on agriculture and fisheriers. On this last point, the protection of sensitive products and sectors through, for instance, the introduction of tariff-rate quotas or their exclusion from trade liberalisation measures should be considered. Moreover, no provision should prevent EU governments from legislating to protect health, safety of the environment or require them to privatise public services. Finally, the EP suggested to adopt provisions allowing for the full functioning of the digital ecosystem and promoting cross-border data flows in full compliance with EU's data protection and privacy rules. In compliance with CJEU's Opinion 2/15, a separate deal on investments should be concluded.

European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 containing the Parliament’s recommendation to the Council on the proposed negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with New Zealand

26/10/2017

In a resolution of 26 October 2017, the European Parliament welcomed the negotiations with New Zealand as sensitive country to sustainable environmental policies, but recommended to negotiate chapters on micro-enterprises and SMEs, on sustainable development and on agriculture and fisheries to avoid using the latter as a leverage to increase access to the New Zealand market. Commitments on the respect of the EU's consumer protection standards and of the welfare of farm and wild animals should also be undertaken. No provision should prevent EU States from legislating to defend health, safety of the environemnt or require them to privatise public services. Moreover, EU businesses should have new opportunities to win contracts with public authorities. Provisions allowing for the promotion of the digital system and cross-border data flows according to the EU's data protection and privacy rules should be adopted. In compliance with CJEU's Opinion 2/15, separate deal on investments should be concluded.

 

EU Commission publishes text proposals and progress report on the advancements achieved in the 5th round of negotiations on the modernization of the EU-Mexico Global Agreement

16/10/2017

The 5th round of negotiations for the modernisation of the EU-Mexico Global Agreement led to substantive advancements in most areas and negotiation groups.

Today, the Commission published a full report of the 5th round and three additional text proposals submitted to the Mexican party.

According to the report, constructive outcomes were reached, among others, with regards to sustainable development, transparency and investment protection.

Opposingly, negotiations stall on investment dispute resolution. According to the published negotiating text, the EU is pushing for the creation of an Investment Court on the model of CETA.

EU Trade Commissioner Malmström calls for ambition in next week's WTO meeting in Marrakech

09/10/2017

In view of next week's WTO meeting in Marrakech, of preparation for the December's formal gathering in Argentina, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström called for ambition in this turn of negotiations.

After re-stating the EU's continuous support for the work of the WTOMalmström invited the other WTO partners to constructively engaging on various proposals put forward by the EU in view of reaching substantive outcomes in several key negotiation areas

Among these proposals, the EU also supports further discussion on investment facilitation in the WTO.

More information on the EU proposals at this link.

Tomorrow EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström will meet civil society to discuss Trade and Sustainable Development in the EU's FTAs

05/10/2017

With a view to improving the implementation of Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters in the EU's free trade agreements, tomorrow Commissioner Malmström will present current developments and exchange views with civil society organisations on Trade and Sustainable Development.

The meeting is part of the broader discussions undertaken by the Commission with the Council, EP and stakeholders to ensure that commitments in bilateral trade and investment agreements in such areas as trade, labour standards, climate and environment protection are respected.

The discussion will be based on the non-paper made available on the website of the Directorate-General for Trade (DG Trade) on 11 July 2017.

The meeting will be recorded and web-streamed through this link.

EU and Mexico successfully conclude the fifth round of negotiations for the modernization of the 1997 EU-Mexico Global Agreement

02/10/2017

On October 2, 2017, the Commission announced the successful conclusion of the 5th round of negotiations with Mexico for the revision of the 1997 EU-Mexico Global Agreement.

The agreement includes trade rules that were later developed into the current comprehensive Free Trade Agreement that entered into force in October 2000.

The sixth round of negotiations will take place in Mexico City from 25 November to 1 December.

The negotiating parties aim at concluding a highly ambitious agreement by the end of the year.

The EU negotiating proposals are available at this link.

Commission publishes report and text proposals following third negotiation round with Indonesia

29/09/2017

On September 29 the EU Commission published a report on the latest negotiating round for the EU-Indonesia trade agreement and eight initial text proposals the EU submitted to Indonesia.

EU-Canada trade agreement enters into force provisionally

25/09/2017

Intra-EU BIT considered compatible with EU Law by AG Wathelet in the Achmea case

19/09/2017

In his Opinion in Case C-284/16 (Slovak Republic v Achmea BV), AG Wathelet maintains that the arbitration clause in the investment protection agreement concluded between the Netherlands and Slovakia is compatible with EU law.

In what can be rightly be described as a paramount opinion on the issue of intra-EU BITs, the AG argues that:

 

  1. The disputed arbitration clause does not constitute discrimination on grounds of nationality prohibited by EU law;

  2. The arbitration system does not fall outside the scope of the preliminary ruling mechanism established by Article 267 TFEU and is, therefore, compatible with that article;

  3. In any case, Article 344 TFEU applies only to disputes between Member States or between Member States and the Union.

EU-Japan trade negotiating directives made public

14/09/2017

After the call for a more transparent and inclusive trade policy for the EU made yesterday by Jean-Claude Juncker during the State of the Union Address, the Council published today the2012 directives given to the Commission to negotiate a trade agreement with Japan.

The EU Commission publishes its recommendations for a Council Decision authorizing the opening of for a Convention establishing a multilateral court for the settlement of investment disputes, as well as for the negotiations for 2 Free Trade Agreements

13/09/2017

In line with its efforts to ensure the greatest possible transparency of the EU's activity in the field of international trade, the EU Commission has published 3 recommendations for Council decisions authorizing the opening of negotiations for a Convention establishing a multilateral court for the settlement of investment disputes, as well as for the 2 Free Trade Agreements with Australia and New Zealand.

The latest Eurobarometer survey shows Europeans want the EU to do more in economy and foreign policy

11/09/2017

According to the latest Eurobarometer, commissioned by the European Parliament, the EU should do more in in 15 key areas ranging from the economy to defence.

More information available on the European Parliament website.

Belgium submits request for an opinion on CETA's compatibility with EU Treaties

06/09/2017

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders submits Belgium’s request for an opinion on the compatibility of the Investment Court System (ICS) with the European Treaties to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The ICS is the reformed system of dispute settlement between States and investors, that was introduced in the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). 

Pursuant to the request, the ECJ will have to assess the compatibility of the CETA ICS with:

 

  • the exclusive competence of the ECJ to ensure the definitive interpretation of European Union law;

  • the EU general principle of equality;

  • the right of access to the courts; and

  • the right to an independent and impartial judiciary. 

Should the ECJ establish the incompatibility of the Agreement with EU law, the EU will be prevented from concluding that Agreement with Canada.

 

When fundamental rights shape the external relations of the EU: The ECJ's opinion on the PNR agreement with Canada.

26/07/2017

The ECJ declares that the PNR agreement with Canada at its current state cannot be concluded by the Union as some of its provisions are incompatible with EU fundamental rights.

The full text of the decision at this link.

UN agrees to start work on multilateral reform of investment dispute settlement

12/07/2017

On 10 July 2017, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) agreed that further work should be carried out in this forum on the issue of a multilateral reform of investment dispute settlement.

More information on the EU Commission website.

EU and Japan reach agreement in principle on Economic Partnership Agreement

06/07/2017

The European Union and Japan have reached today an agreement in principle on the main elements of an EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. The Agreement covers a number of areas, from agricultural exports to services markets, in particular, financial services, e-commerce, telecommunications, and transport. 

The Agreement marks another fundamental step for a more open and fair global trading system. However, some chapters of fundamental importance, such as investment, remain for the momento outside its scope. 

 

EP's Resolution on the implementation of the FTA with Korea

18/05/2017

On 18th May 2017 the plenary of the European Parliament has adopted a Resolution on the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Korea. The Resolution recalls that the FTA shall be considered as a process, meaning that it must be subject to periodic analyses and evaluations. Furthermore, the European Parliament observes that there are still issues that should be analysed and further implemented in the relations between the European Union and Korea, namely:

 

  1. technical barriers to trade;

  2. barriers in the area of sanitary and phytosanitary measures;

  3. intellectual protperty rights;

  4. trade and sustainable development;

  5. rules of origin;

  6. customs-related matters.

The European Parliament als calls the Commission and the EU Member States to study the preference utilisation rate of SMEs in particular and to take effective steps to raise awareness among SMEs regarding the opportunities taht the FTA ha created.

ECJ's Opinion on the envisaged FTA with Singapore

16/05/2017

On 20th September 2013, the European Union (EU or Union) and Singapore initialled a text of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The Agreeement is on the first 'new generation' bilateral free trade agreements, that is to say, a trade agreement which contains, in addition to the classical provisions on the reduction of customs duties and of non-tariff barriers in the field of trade in goods and services, provisions on various matters related to trade, such as intellectual property protection, investment, public procurement, competition and sustainable development.

The European Commission submitted a request to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for an Opinion to determine whether the EU has an exclusive competence to sing and conclude the FTA by itself. The Commission and the European Parliament contend that that is the case. The Council and the governments of all the Member States which submitted observations to the Court (observations were submitted by all the Member States with the exception of Belgium, Croatia, Estonia and Sweden) assert that the Union cannot conclude the agreement by itself because certain parts of the FTA fall within a competence shared between the EU and its Member States, or even within the exclusive competence of the Member States.

In today's Opinion, the ECJ, after having made it clear that the Opinion relates only to the issue of whether the EU has exclusive competence and not whether the content of the Agreement is compatible with EU law, holds that the FTA with Singapore cannot, in its current form, be concluded by the Union alone, because some of the provisions envisaged fall within competences shared between the EU and the Member States. It follows that the FTA with Singapore can, as it stands, be concluded only by the EU and its Member States acting together.

In particular, the Court declares that the EU has exclusive competence so far as concerns the parts of the FTA relating to the following matters:

 

  1. access to EU market and the Singapore market so far as concerns goods and services, and in the fields of public procurement and of energy generation from sustainable non-fossil sources;

  2. the provisions concerning protection of direct foreign investments of Singapore nationals in the EU (and vice versa);

  3. the provisions concerning intellectual property rights;

  4. the provisions designed to combat anti-competitive activity and to lay down a framework for concentrations, monopolies and subsidies;

  5. the provisions concerning sustainable development;

  6. the rules relating to exchange of information and to obligations governing notification, verification, cooperation, mediation, transparency and dispute settlement between the Parties, unless those rules related to the field of non-direct foreign investment.

Ultimately, it is in respect of only two aspects of the FTA that - according to the ECJ - the Union is not endowed with exclusive competences, namely the field of non-direct foreign investments and the regime governing dispute settlement between investors and States.

European Commission's report on the latest round of trade talks with Japan

28/04/2017

The European Commission published today a Report summarising the progress made during the latest round of EU-Japan trade talks which took place in April in Tokyo.

More information on the EU-Japan talks are available on EU Trade's website.

 

European Commission's report on the latest round of trade talks with Mercosur

10/04/2017

The Commission today published a Report summarising the progress made during the latest round of negotiations for a Trade Agreement between the European Union and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) which took place in Buenos Aires during the week of 20th March.

More information on the EU-Japan talks are available on EU Trade's website.

2017 Rome Declaration

25/03/2017

On 25th March 2017, the leaders of 27 Member States and of the EU institutions adopted a solemn Declaration to relaunch the political process of the European Union. Among the other priorities, the leaders have stressed the need to strenghten the role played by the Union on the global stage, by promoting, inter alia, free and fair trade.

Commitment for an early conclusion of EU-Japan FTA negotiations

17/02/2017

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Fumio Kishida met on 17th February 2017 in Bonn to discuss the way forward for the negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Japan. Both parties reaffirmed their commitment to reach a highly comprehensive and ambitious agreement as early as possible. 

'Negotiations are very advanced. While it was not possible to conclude by the end of 2016, as we had hoped, tremendous progress has been registered over the last few months. As often in a negotiation, the few remaining issues are the most difficult to be solved, but I am confident that the distance between our respective positions can be bridged soon', said Commissioner Malmström.  

European Parliament approves CETA

15/02/2017

The European Parliament has approved the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The Agreement has been backed by 408 MEPs, while 254 MEPs voted against and 33 abstained.

Along with CETA, the European Parliament has also given the green light to the conclusion of an EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), for further developing bilateral cooperation on non-trade issues.

Having been previously declared a mixed agreement by the Commission, CETA needs now to be ratified by all Member States, in accordance with their constitutional requirements. CETA could become provisionally applicable the first day of the second month following the notification of completion of internal procedure by both parties, and possibly as of April 2017.

More information on the negotiation process, content and impact of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement can be found here.

The EU has an exclusive competence to conclude the Marrakesh Treaty on access to published works for persons who are visually impaired

14/02/2017

The Marrakesh Treaty requires the contracting States to provide in their national law that certain entities (government institutions and non-profit organisations which provide services relating to education, instructional training, adaptive reading or information access) may, without the authorisation of the rightholder, reproduce or distribute copies of published works in a format which gives access to the works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled (referred to in the treaty as ‘beneficiary persons’). The contracting States must also promote the cross-border exchange of accessible format copies by permitting certain imports and exports of those copies. In 2012 the Council authorised the Commission to participate, on behalf of the EU, in negotiations within the framework of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on the future Marrakesh Treaty. The Treaty was adopted on 27th June 2013. Taking the view that the EU itself (without the participation of the Member States) could conclude the Marrakesh Treaty, the Commission put forward a proposal for a decision on the conclusion of the treaty: that decision was not adopted by the Council. 

The Commission then asked the Court of Justice to give its Opinion on whether the Marrakesh Treaty may be concluded by the EU acting on its own or whether the participation of the Member States is necessary for that purpose. Eight Member States, which consider that the EU does not have exclusive competence to conclude the Marrakesh Treaty in its entirety and that, their participation is therefore necessary, have taken part in the Opinion procedure. 

In its Opinion, the Court examines whether the Marrakesh Treaty is connected with the common commercial policy, which, under the FEU Treaty, falls within the exclusive competence of the EU. The Court concludes that the Marrakesh Treaty does not come within the ambit of the common commercial policy. Next, the Court recalls that the EU also has exclusive competence when the conclusion of an international agreement may affect ‘common rules’ or alter their scope. The Court thus considers whether that is the case of the Marrakesh Treaty. The Court states in that regard that the EU Directive on copyright permits Member States which wish to do so to introduce –– for the benefit of persons with a disability –– an exception or limitation to the rights of reproduction and communication to the public. It follows that the exception or limitation provided for by the Marrakesh Treaty will have to be implemented within the area harmonised by the directive. The same is true of the import and export arrangements prescribed by the Treaty, inasmuch as they are intended to permit the communication to the public or the distribution, in the territory of a contracting State, of accessible format copies published in another contracting State, without the consent of the rightholders being obtained. The Court points out in that regard that, while the Member States have the option under the Directive of introducing such an exception or limitation, that option is granted by the EU legislature and is highly circumscribed by various requirements of EU law. The Court also states that, unlike the Directive, the Marrakesh Treaty lays down an obligation (not merely an option) to introduce an exception or limitation for the benefit of certain persons with disabilities. The Court thus considers that, once the Treaty is concluded, all the Member States will be required to introduce the exception or limitation for persons with a disability. It follows that the body of obligations laid down by the Marrakesh Treaty falls within an area that is already covered to a large extent by ‘common EU rules’ and that the conclusion of the Treaty may affect those rules or alter their scope

EU-US joint report on TTIP progress

17/01/2017

A joint EU-US Report on the progress made in TTIP talks has been published on 17th January 2017. Although there are some areas where parties found a common ground after several years of negotiations, the most controversial issues, such as how to improve access to public procurement markets, provide a strong investment protection that preserves the right to regulate and reconcile approach to trademarks and geographical indications still remain to be solved. However, EU and US agreed the economic and strategic rationale for an agreement still remains strong

In the meantime, US President Trump on 23rd January 2017 formally abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was signed by Obama but still had to be approved by the Congress.