Brussels, 18 December 2012
Commission proposes improved rules to enforce EU rights under international trade agreements
The Commission is today proposing a new framework to enhance the EU's ability to enforce its rights in the international trading system. Ensuring the EU's trade partners respect the agreed trade rules is essential to make trade agreements work for the EU economy. The proposal covers the EU's trade responses in cases of illegal trade measures in other countries, and it will allow effective action to safeguard the interests of EU companies and workers. The proposal is for a framework to enable the Commission to take executive action when the trade interests of the EU are at stake, rather than reacting on a case by case basis when the EU rights are not respected. Today's proposal would allow the EU to implement trade responses in a more streamlined, efficient manner in order to encourage the offending country to remove the illegal measures.
"The EU's membership in the World Trade Organisation and bilateral trade agreements help the EU economy. Those agreements must be respected for them to deliver results. When international trade disputes prove that other countries haven't played by the rules, the EU needs to be able to react efficiently and swiftly to defend its interests", said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht."Today's proposal gives us the tools to make sure the EU's international trade rights can be properly enforced in real time."
The Commission is proposing a Regulation to establish a clear and predictable framework for adopting implementing acts following international trade disputes that have a negative economic impact on the EU. In cases of last resort, trade sanctions can be put in place to encourage the offending country to remove illegal measures.
Action could also be taken to compensate for import restrictions that are imposed on EU products in exceptional situations (so-called safeguard measures), or to react to cases where a WTO member country changes its trade regime in a way that negatively affects EU trade (such as raising its import tariffs) without adequate compensation.
Such implementating acts can only be taken under certain well-defined conditions and might take the form of new or increased customs duties or quotas on imports or exports of goods, among other possible measures.
The proposal is for an EU Regulation of the Council and the European Parliament and will now be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament under the ordinary legislative procedure.
The proposal is part of the Commission's broader objective to improve the exercise of EU rights for the enforcement of international trade rules. It was set out in the Commission Communication on "Trade, growth and world affairs"1 and endorsed in the Council conclusions of 21 December 20102. Specifically, the EU committed to step up its efforts to enforce its rights under bilateral and multilateral agreements to open markets that are illegally closed.
The Commission's proposal intends to remedy to the current situation where the EU does not have a single horizontal framework to react swiftly and efficiently on enforcing international trade rulings. The establishment of a framework of rules is needed following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, under which legislative and executive functions are clearly divided between EU institutions. Previously, action to enforce EU rights under international trade agreements followed an ad hoc approach that no longer responds to the needs of the EU.
WTO dispute settlement:
COM (2010)612 final of 9.11.2010, section 4.
Council conclusions on the EU’s trade policy of 21.12.2010, paragraph 8.