Brussels, 8 May 2014
EU adopts stronger rules to better defend its rights under trade agreements
The European Commission welcomes a new legal framework approved by the European Parliament on April 2 and by the EU Council today to better enforce EU rights under international trade agreements. The new rules will allow for a more effective EU response to illegal measures taken by our trading partners. The new regulation gives the EU a single horizontal framework to react swiftly and effectively to make sure that trade agreements translate into real benefits for EU businesses and workers.
“These new enforcement rules will help us ensure that trade agreements are respected and deliver benefits for the EU economy. The EU is now better equipped to take action when other countries don't play by the rules," said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
If an international trade panel – a WTO panel or a dispute settlement panel created under a free trade agreement – finds an EU partner country does not abide by international trade rules, the Commission will now be able to adopt trade sanctions under a streamlined procedure. Recourse to lengthy legislative procedures, which are ill-suited for the swift adoption of effective enforcement measures, will no longer be necessary. The Commission can now increase customs duties, set an import quota or impose limitations on access to public contracts in the EU by means of an executive decision to prompt the offending country to remove their illegal measures.
The Commission will now also have legal powers to compensate for import restrictions imposed on EU products in exceptional situations (so-called safeguard measures), or to react to cases where a WTO member raises its import tariffs without adequate compensation for the EU.
The new regulation follows the objective set out in the Commission Communication "Trade, growth and world affairs", endorsed by the Council in December 2010. The EU committed itself at that time to step up its efforts to enforce its rights under bilateral and multilateral agreements to open markets that are closed illegally.
The adoption of new rules follows the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, under which legislative and executive functions are clearly divided between EU institutions.
In December 2013, the Commission made a proposal for a clear and predictable legal framework for taking policy measures following trade disputes that have a negative economic impact on the EU.
The European Parliament voted on an amended version of the Commission proposal on 2 April 2014. The EU Council has today endorsed the amended text, which will be signed into law next week.
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