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The EU and the WTO | Brussels, 5 July 2017

WTO report welcomes the EU’s engagement in the WTO and its strong call to resist protectionism

In its assessment of the European Union’s trade policy, the WTO pays tribute to the critical role played by the EU in the Organisation. A WTO report highlights the EU’s remarkable openness at a time of geopolitical challenges and uncertainties. WTO Members will discuss the report today 5 July and Friday 7 July in Geneva.

During the 13th EU Trade Policy Review the following points - highlighted in a report by the WTO Secretariat - will be the subject of discussion amongst WTO Members.

  • The WTO report states that "The EU remains critically important to world trade". The EU is among the top three trade partners of no less than 146 countries and the first trading partner for 84 countries. 
  • Recently the EU heads of States and Governments recalled their strong commitment to the WTO and their strong call to resist protectionism. They also called for managing overcapacity in certain sectors of the economy collectively to avoid a spiral of protectionist moves.
  • In 2016 the EU was the most important trading entity in the WTO with 16.8% of world trade in goods and services followed by the US (15%) and China (13.4%). The EU is the leading services exporter. Globally the EU maintains a large trade surplus with third countries, even if individual Member States' situation varies.
  • 31 million jobs in the EU are supported by its participation in global trade. However, while exports are important, imports are just as vital to the EU's economy. In today's world of global value chains, in order to export, economic operators need imports. The EU sources inputs from the rest of the world, and this also creates jobs outside the EU. 
  • The EU continues to grant preferential import conditions to developing countries and LDCs through its Generalised System of Preferences scheme. In 2016, almost EUR 62.6 billion of imports entered the EU under GSP preferences as follows: EUR 31.6 billion of imports from countries under the Standard GSP and EUR 7.5 billion of imports from GSP+ beneficiaries. LDCs in particular have exported to the EU, making use of the EU duty-free-quota-free scheme ('Everything but Arms') – 23.5 billion euro in 2016 (up 38% from 2014). This has been facilitated by the EU's reformed rules of origin.
  • The EU pays particular attention to the most vulnerable countries and supports developing countries' further integration into world trade. The EU is the leading donor of aid in general, as well as of Aid for Trade. Between 2010 and 2014, the EU and its Member States committed an average of Euro 11 billion per year in Aid for Trade, making it the largest provider of assistance worldwide. In line with priorities set by partner countries, trade facilitation and supporting TFA implementation will be a particular priority in coming years. From 2016 to 2018, in addition to significant support provided by EU Member States, the European Commission expects to commit a further half a billion EUR? for trade facilitation alone.
  • The WTO report also recognises the EU's positive track record in terms of agricultural and fisheries reforms.


The Trade Policy Review Mechanism is the most important transparency exercise of the WTO. It systematically and regularly analyses and assesses the trade policies of the WTO member countries and thus shows how they comply with the rules, disciplines and commitments initially made. It outlines the trade policies and practices of WTO members and by doing so promotes a smoother functioning of the multilateral trading system.

The four largest WTO Members in terms of trade volume are reviewed every two years. Currently, these Members are the EU (last reviewed in July 2015), the US (last reviewed in December 2016), Japan (reviewed last March) and China (last reviewed in July 2016). This cycle is to change in accordance with the decision made in 2016 in the TPRB and therefore the next EU TPR would be in 2020.

The review of the EU's trade policy is based on a report presented by the WTO Secretariat, a report from the EU and written questions from Members, to which the EU replies in writing. The EU has received about 1016 advance written questions (as counted by the EU). The WTO Trade Policy Review meeting takes place in Geneva on 5 and 7 July 2015.

More information

Read the EU opening statement and the second day EU statement, given by Deputy Director General of DG Trade Joost Korte

The EU Trade policy review: the WTO secretariat report and the EU government report

For further information and related documents please visit the webpages of the WTO and the EU Mission in Geneva.