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Protection against trade barriers

This regulation aims to establish a procedure enabling economic operators and the European Union (EU) countries to request the EU institutions to respond to any trade barriers put in place by third countries, with a view to eliminating the resulting injury or adverse trade effects in accordance with international trade rules.


Council Regulation (EC) No 3286/94 of 22 December 1994 laying down Community procedures in the field of the common commercial policy in order to ensure the exercise of the Community's rights under international trade rules, in particular those established under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation [See amending acts].


This regulation replaces the 1984 regulation on illicit practices. It covers trade barriers that may impede European Union (EU) exports to third country markets.

The scope of the trade barriers regulation is broader than that relating to illicit practices. The regulation applies not only to goods but also to certain services, particularly cross-border services.


The term "obstacle to trade" (i.e. trade barrier) refers to any trade practice adopted by a third country but prohibited by international trade rules which give a party affected by the practice a right to seek elimination of the effect of the practice in question. These international trade rules are essentially those of the WTO and those set out in bilateral agreements with third countries to which the EU is a party.

The regulation defines "injury" as any material injury which an obstacle to trade threatens to cause to an EU industry on the market of the EU.

"Adverse trade effects" are those which an obstacle to trade threatens to cause to EU enterprises on the market of any third country, and which have a material impact on the economy of the EU or of a region of the EU, or on a sector of economic activity therein.

The term "EU industry" means all EU producers or providers of products or services which are the subject of an obstacle to trade or all those producers or providers whose combined output constitutes a major proportion of total EU production of the products or services in question.

The term "EU enterprise" means a company formed in accordance with the law of an EU country and having its registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the EU, directly concerned by the production of goods or the provision of services which are the subject of the obstacle to trade.

Right of referral

Complaints under this regulation may be lodged in three ways:

  • on behalf of an EU industry that has suffered material injury as a result of trade barriers that have an effect on the market of the EU;
  • on behalf of one or more EU enterprises that have suffered adverse trade effects as a result of trade barriers that have an effect on the market of a third country;
  • by an EU country denouncing an obstacle to trade.

The complaint must contain sufficient evidence of the existence of the trade barriersand of the injury or adverse trade effects resulting therefrom. In examining injury or adverse trade effects, the Commission will take account of certain factors such as the volume of EU imports or exports concerned, the prices of the EU industry's competitors, the rate of increase of exports to the market where the competition with EU products is taking place, the export capacity in the country of origin or export, and so on.

Examination procedures

Complaints must be submitted to the Commission in writing. The Commission will decide on the admissibility of a complaint within 45 days. This period may be suspended at the request of the complainant in order to allow the provision of complementary information.

The regulation has provided for a consultation procedure by establishing an advisory committee composed of representatives of each EU country and chaired by a representative of the Commission. This committee is used as the forum for providing the EU countries with information and is where they can express their opinions either in writing or by requesting an oral consultation.

If a complaint is deemed admissible, an examination is initiated and announced through publication of an announcement in the Official Journal of the European Communities. This announcement will indicate the product or service and countries concerned. The Commission will then gather all the relevant information from the parties involved.

When it is found as a result of the examination procedure that the interests of the EU do not require any action to be taken, the procedure will be terminated. When, after an examination procedure, the third country or countries concerned take measures to eliminate the adverse trade effects or injury referred to by the complainant, the procedure may be suspended. It may also be suspended in order to try to find an amicable solution that may result in the conclusion of an agreement between the third country or countries concerned and the EU.

Adoption of commercial policy measures

Where it is found, as a result of the examination procedure, that action is necessary in the interests of the EU in order to ensure the exercise of the EU's rights, the appropriate measures will be determined on the basis of the regulation. These measures may include:

  • suspension or withdrawal of any concession resulting from commercial policy negotiations;
  • the raising of existing customs duties or the introduction of any other charge on imports;
  • the introduction of quantitative restrictions or any other measures modifying import or export conditions or otherwise affecting trade with the third country concerned.

Where the EU's international obligations require it to follow prior international consultation or dispute settlement procedures, these measures may only be implemented at the end of these procedures and in accordance with their conclusions.

The Council must rule on the Commission proposal within 30 days of receiving the proposal.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 3286/94



OJ L 349 of 31.12.1994

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 356/95



OJ L 41 of 23.2.1995

Regulation (EC) No 125/2008



OJ L 40 of 14.2.2008

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 3286/94 have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference only.


Communication from the Commission - Global Europe - Europe's trade defence instruments in a changing global economy - A Green Paper for public consultation [COM(2006) 763 final].
This Green Paper forms part of the process launched in October 2006 to reflect upon and give a fresh impetus to competitiveness in the EU as part of the global economy. In this context, the Commission has launched a procedure to reflect on how trade defence instruments (anti-dumping, anti-subsidy and safeguard measures) can continue to be used to best effect in the EU interest. The latter are in fact based on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and help protect the EU from unfair trade as well as manage the consequences of globalisation. Another factor is that the context in which trade defence instruments are adopted has changed.

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Global Europe - Competing in the world - A contribution to the EU's Growth and Jobs Strategy [COM(2006) 567 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 17.05.2011
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