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A stronger partnership to deliver market access

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The Commission proposes a stronger partnership with European companies and Member States to deliver market access. It is setting priorities and calling for efficient and transparent market access tools.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 18 April 2007: "Global Europe: a stronger partnership to deliver market access for European exporters" [COM(2007) 183 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

In today's global economy, market access significantly influences the economic strength of European companies and exporters. Establishing an efficient commercial policy is indispensable for growth and employment and ensures that European companies remain competitive and have genuine market access.

In the interest of fair competition, emerging economies must further open their markets and bring down their barriers to trade. The European Union (EU) is prepared to do the same in order to promote competition and innovation and attract foreign investment.

Given that progressive market liberalisation leads to positive results for both developed and developing countries, the EU is prioritising its commitments to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Doha Development Agenda. However, a renewed policy, focused on specific problems and markets, is needed.

The Commission proposes a stronger partnership with Member States and European businesses with a view to establishing a clearer, more results-oriented approach. This partnership must focus on:

  • specific problems encountered in third-country markets;
  • identifying weaknesses in the current system;
  • how EU policy must change to reflect a changing global economy.

The Commission plans to decentralise the current system, rendering it more efficient and transparent, and make better use of local knowledge and initiative through the development of specialist EU teams made up of representatives from the Commission, Member States and companies. Finally, it calls for Community priorities to be defined in order to focus on the most pressing challenges.

Market access in a changing global economy

The trade barriers in today's global economy are:

  • tariff barriers and burdensome customs procedures;
  • restrictions on access to raw materials;
  • barriers to trade in services and to foreign direct investment;
  • restrictive government procurement practices;
  • unfair or discriminatory fiscal practices (reliance on State aid, subsidies and methods in breach of WTO trade defence rules such as the anti-dumping measures);
  • misuse of unjustified measures concerning health, safety and technical regulations;
  • poor protection and inadequate implementation of intellectual property rights (IPR).

These barriers to trade are complicated and difficult to detect. Non-tariff and other "behind-the-border" barriers are increasingly important. Many market access problems now arise because existing rules are not correctly implemented. Only better coordination between Member States, businesses and the Commission can make it easier to detect, analyse, assess and eliminate them.

Stakeholders' support for change

Consultation of the stakeholders confirmed that market access requires stronger action at Community level and a more results-oriented approach. The recommendations include:

  • improving the mix of policy instruments;
  • engaging actively in multilateral and bilateral negotiations;
  • taking steps to ensure that agreements are enforced;
  • maximising results though closer cooperation between the Commission, Member States and businesses;
  • better prioritising of action against barriers to trade;
  • offering businesses a more efficient and transparent service;
  • eliminating barriers to trade in goods and services, intellectual property and investment.

The right mix of policy instruments to deliver market access

We cannot rely on a single avenue or mechanism to tackle trade barriers. Although the WTO system and multilateral cooperation are still the best way to guarantee market access, we must use formal and informal multilateral and bilateral instruments. In the WTO, successful completion of the Doha round is the EU's priority. The scope for using accession negotiations to secure greater market access is constantly diminishing, as the most important trading countries have now joined the WTO (China) or are about to do so (Russia). Multilateral cooperation will thus be strengthened by the launch of new negotiations on bilateral Free Trade Agreements with ASEAN, Korea, India, the Andean and Central American countries, as well as by the continuation of talks with Mercosur and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Rights under the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding should be actively pursued, taking advantage of flexible dispute avoidance and resolution mechanisms based on mediation. To this end, complaints against violation of bilateral treaties will be included in the Trade Barriers Regulation.

The EU's position in international standardisation bodies will be reinforced, giving it greater influence in international cooperation.

However, compliance with the rules is largely dependent on administrative capacities, training instruments and technical infrastructures. The Commission and the EU are therefore committed to increasing trade-related assistance in order to reduce these constraints. The Commission also proposes to encourage third countries to use notification procedures to lift trade restrictions.

Finally, it reaffirms the increasingly important role played by political contacts and international diplomacy, in addition to other policy instruments, in tackling barriers to trade.

Towards a stronger partnership

The Commission proposes the establishment of a new partnership with Member States and European businesses. These trilateral discussions will lead to the identification of better ways of working with a view to:

  • establishing priorities for action in removal of trade barriers;
  • linking up databases;
  • developing a network of market access specialists.

Commission delegations, Member States' embassies and European businesses operating abroad are best placed to:

  • identify the problems encountered;
  • determine whether coordinated action with different specialists is required;
  • conduct local follow-up.

The efficency of this joint effort depends on contacts and systematic cooperation, making it possible to improve information collection, identify legislative proposals and use local knowledge.

In Brussels, the "Market Access" Advisory Committee is tasked with:

  • promoting the exchange of best practice;
  • enhancing coordination;
  • working closely with the Trade Barriers Regulation Committee.

Although the overall advisory committee on trade policy (133 Committee) remains the main forum for discussion, other specialist committees will continue to play an important role. The Commission will discuss market access issues on a regular basis with the European Parliament.

Establishing priorities

Given the increasing complexity of trade barriers, making them more difficult to detect and remove, we need to focus on the highest priorities, namely:

  • economic benefits in the short and the medium term for EU businesses;
  • barriers representing a serious infringement of an agreement;
  • resolution of the problem within a reasonable timeframe.

Priorities will be defined in terms of countries, sectors and categories of problem.

However, prioritisation must not be a straitjacket; rather it must provide guidance for using resources better.

A more effective and transparent service

A prevention-based "early warning" approach allows potential barriers to be identified and tackled at source and means that any concerns are made known before draft regulations or legislation are set in stone. The main challenge is the time needed to successfully remove barriers. European businesses need quicker, more responsive action. The Commission therefore proposes to improve and streamline the way it registers, analyses and tackles complaints.

It is the role of European businesses to provide much of the information on barriers to market access. The Commission's role is to ensure that this information is shared by registering the complaints received in the Market Access Database and establishing web-links with other databases for greater accessibility. This database, which is available on line, provides rapidly accessible and reliable information with regard to applied tariffs, trade barriers, import formalities and documentary requirements for imports. The Commission is launching a promotional campaign in and with the Member States to raise the profile of the database and encourage European companies to register their complaints. Cases will be given a unique registration number to facilitate their tracking through the system in a transparent manner. Moreover, the Commission undertakes to update the information available on the database and develop new sections over time to improve its coverage in areas such as services, IPR enforcement and investment. The Commission is currently looking at ways to link the Market Access Database and the Helpdesk for Developing Country Exporters.

Conclusions

A stronger partnership to deliver market access is needed to achieve a global Europe and represents a significant contribution to the Lisbon agenda for growth and jobs. The success of the current initiative will depend on:

  • the strength of the new partnership;
  • the allocation of sufficient resources;
  • optimum use of resources.

The Commission is committed to taking up this challenge and calls for the participation of all interested parties.

Further information on the DG External Trade website.

RELATED ACTS

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 4 October 2006:"Global Europe: Competing in the World"[COM (2006) 567 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 16.04.2008
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