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Accessing markets | Brussels, 21 June 2016

Commission report Points to Rising Global Protectionism

The Commission today presented an analysis of protectionist trends around the world. The tendency to restrict trade remains strong, with 200 new protectionist measures adopted in the 31 monitored countries in the 18-month period covered by the report. This increases the total amount of trade-restrictive measures adopted in these countries since the beginning of the economic crisis to well over 1000.

The EU strives to remove these barriers for the benefit of European companies and citizens. Today's report presents among others EU's action on specific trade barriers hindering sales of EU products and services.

Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: "Trade protectionism continues to be on the rise around the world. Open markets are proven to bring more innovation, increased productivity, economic growth and prosperity. Despite this, few barriers to trade have been removed, while new ones have been introduced. That's why we continue our efforts to promote open trade by negotiating free trade agreements, and enforcing the existing rules. I strongly hope that our partners can join us in our strong commitment to make open markets work for all."

Overview of the report findings

Product bans, import or export duties and licences that strike trade right at the border, remain the most common trade restrictions. They are followed by internal measures affecting in particular trade in services, investment and access to foreign public contracts.

Products most affected by restrictive measures include raw materials and energy products hit by export restrictions and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) products hit with local content requirements, unjustified data localisation constraints and certification or intrusive testing requirements.

Emerging economies are responsible for roughly half of all new trade-restrictive measures introduced between June 2014 and December 2015. However, developed countries, including some G20 members, also continue to adopt such measures, in spite of repeated pledges against protectionism.

To give a few examples, the major concerns in EU strategic export markets include:

  • measures in China claimed to be based on national security, and especially cyber-security grounds; limitations in access to public procurement and foreign direct investment, and major concerns as regards protection of intellectual property rights and their enforcement;
  • explicit import substitution policies in Russia implying a number of protectionist measures related to technical regulations, sanitary and phytosanitary rules, and customs matters, as well as several discriminatory subsidy programmes conditioned on local content requirements
  • an increase of duties on several products in India, including on ICT, which is formally bound to be duty-free under the existing Information Technology Agreement - and lack of effective patent protection.
  • disproportionate restrictions on imports of steel adopted by some countries that negatively impact the already difficult situation in the global markets due to production overcapacity.

Some long-standing trade barriers also remain to be addressed in Argentina and especially Brazil. Nonetheless, some positive developments can also be noted, in particular with regard to Argentine restrictive measures like the prior sworn import declaration (or "DJAI"), the system of export licences and most of its export taxes on agricultural and industrial products.

As regards the EU trade with the US and Japan, important hurdles that persist in the area of public procurement, sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade are being addressed in the framework of respective bilateral trade negotiations.


The EU Market Access Strategy complements the EU's multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral trade negotiations by ensuring that trade opportunities created by trade agreements are translated into real market access for European exporters. The strategy is based on a partnership between the European Commission, the Member States and stakeholders.

In its Communication "Trade for All" of October 2015, the Commission committed to an enhanced partnership with Member States, the European Parliament and stakeholders for the implementation of trade agreements. This extends and reinforces the current market access partnership beyond the removal of obstacles to trade and investment, to the implementation of free trade agreements, including awareness raising and customs cooperation activities, trade facilitation and sustainable development.

The Report on Trade and Investment Barriers and Protectionist Trends issued today combines the information previously contained in two separate reports, namely the Trade and Investment Barriers Report and the Report on Potentially Trade Restrictive Measures, both published on an annual basis.

For more information

Report on Trade and Investment Barriers and Protectionist Trends 2016
Analysis of new potentially trade restrictive measures in the period 1 July 2014 to 31 December 2015

Trade and Investment Barriers Report 2015

11th Protectionism Report 2014
EU Market Access Strategy