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External aspects of enterprise policy

The signing of agreements between the European Union and third countries, round tables and business forums, industrial cooperation programmes and external trade policy: these are the instruments which allow European businesses to develop on an international scale.

In order to boost the competitiveness of European businesses, a number of international parameters are essential. Commercial policy, for instance, helps to build a competitive Europe in a globalised economy. Furthermore, the purpose of establishing a stronger partnership for better market access to external markets is to develop trade. Lastly, cooperation in the field of industrial policy gives European businesses the chance to found partnerships or develop beyond the borders of the European Union.

The EU cooperates with its main partners in the world in a number of ways. Firstly, the Commission maintains close links with the governments of third countries. Secondly, businesses themselves have the opportunity to meet at forums and round tables. Lastly, the EU supports industrial cooperation through programmes implemented jointly with third countries.

Intergovernmental relations

The EU engages in bilateral cooperation with third countries. This cooperation takes the form of mutual recognition agreements, association agreements, framework partnership agreements or stability pacts.

The removal of obstacles to business development by means of a less restrictive regulatory policy constitutes one of the EU's main concerns. For instance, on the basis of Article 133 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), mutual recognition agreements on standards provide for mutual acceptance between governments of test reports, certificates and conformity marks applied by the relevant agencies to certain products manufactured in a specific country.

The EU maintains close relations with the United States, Canada, China, Russia, India and Japan. For example, it has entered into dialogue on regulatory cooperation and also on industrial policy with China.

It also cooperates regularly with the candidate accession countries, the countries of the Western Balkans and the countries neighbouring the EU (in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy), such as the countries of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Euro-Mediterranean cooperation is organised under this neighbourhood policy and also through the Barcelona Process, launched in 1995 with the aim of bringing Europe politically, culturally and economically closer to its Mediterranean partners. Industrial cooperation is seen as an important link in the chain of economic cooperation and is promoted through the progressive establishment of free trade areas and increased investment. It attracts attention through conferences held between Ministers of Industry or working group meetings on subjects relating to industrial policy. One of the main achievements of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership was the adoption of the Euro-Mediterranean Charter for Enterprise on 4 October 2004.

On 23 and 24 April 2007, the General Affairs and External Relations Council approved plans to negotiate association agreements with Central America, the Andean Community and its member countries, as well as draft free trade agreements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), India and South Korea.

Cooperation between businesses

Round tables and commercial dialogue give businesses the opportunity to meet and convey recommendations to the governments of the Member States and countries concerned. Round tables often involve representatives of the industrial sector and also of the national and EU administrations. Among the suggestions frequently made to governments are recommendations on commercial policy, discussions in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), investments, financial services, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the removal of obstacles to economic activities caused by divergent national legislation.

The main round tables concern:

Industrial cooperation programmes

The EU encourages industrial cooperation through the implementation of programmes which support the creation and expansion of businesses, partnerships between European businesses and foreign businesses, particularly SMEs, and programmes offering business traineeships for students.

The main programmes supported by the EU include:

Last updated: 04.10.2007
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