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Trade defence | Brussels, 26 May 2014

EU Trade spokesman in response to the Press Release by Arnaud Montebourg following today’s Competitiveness Council

Today, Commissioner De Gucht announced to the Competitiveness Council his intention to bring four draft Guidelines on Trade Defence Matters to the College for adoption before the summer break. These Guidelines codify [or clarify] existing European Commission practice with respect to:

Texte en français

(a) The choice of an analogue country in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases,
(b) The calculation of the injury margin,
(c) The application of the Union interest test,
(d) The duration and expiry of measures.

The publication of such guidelines will greatly enhance the transparency of trade defence proceedings for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Led by the French Minister Arnaud Montebourg, several southern Member States such as Spain and Italy have argued that the adoption of such guidelines would weaken the protection of EU industry in the fight against unfair practices from third states and companies.

EU Trade Spokesman John Clancy strongly rejects this claim: "Over the past four years, the European Commission has adopted a very firm stance against unfair competition. We withstood pressure from China in the Solar Panel Case despite very little initial support in the Council and have defended European wine exports (mostly from France, Spain and Italy) against Trade Defence cases launched against them. To state that codifying Commission practice would weaken EU industry is simply ignoring the Commission's strong record under the tenure of EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht."

The European Commission also denies the allegation that the guidelines would be adopted without consultation of the Council or the European Parliament: "The guidelines were transmitted to the Council and the Parliament in April 2013, i.e. more than a year ago. Revised versions were shared with the co-legislator in December after a public consultation. I am surprised that the French minister is not aware that such consultation has taken place" said EU Trade spokesman John Clancy, adding that "a French delegate made comments on the draft texts as recently as this month in the Council working party on behalf of the French government".

Moreover, some Member States such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary preferred that the guidelines would be adopted "as a package" together with the revised basic regulation. The Commissioner explained that he had presented the draft legislative proposal together with the draft guidelines back in April 2013, but always stressed that joint presentation does not mean joint adoption. Rather, the legislation and the guidelines follow different procedural paths.

"The Council was unable to come to a position on the legislative proposal which is on its table for over a year. This prevented even the start of a trilogue with the outgoing European Parliament. Each institution should shoulder its own responsibilities – if the Council had constructively engaged on the Commission's legislative proposal then the revised legislation and the guidelines could have been adopted at the same time. Unfortunately, this did not happen, so the Commission will now exercise its institutional prerogatives".

Finally, the French Minister drew the extraordinary conclusion that the Commissioner should suspend "all initiative on commercial policy awaiting the installation of the new Parliament".

EU Trade spokesman John Clancy observed: "The European Commission has the constitutional task to carry out trade policy on behalf of the European Union for the benefit of European citizens. Of course, we will continue to investigate trade defence cases and take appropriate measures to defend EU industry against unfair trade. Asking to suspend our trade action now blatantly disregards the role of the Commission which has been invested by the previous Parliament until the end of October."

Background

Guidelines on Trade Defence instruments set out the Commission practice with respect to certain concepts in the basic regulation. They explain the used methods with reference to cases decided by the Commission in the past and thereby enhance the predictability of the Commission approach in similar cases in the future ("codification").

For further information

EU trade defence policy