Actions against exports from the EU Brussels, 3 July 2012
European Commission publishes 9th Annual Report on Third Country Trade Defence Actions
The European Commission on 28 June published its 9th annual report to the European Parliament providing an overview of trade defence actions undertaken by third countries against the European Union. The report highlights the efforts undertaken by the European Commission to ensure that third country trade defence proceedings potentially affecting EU exporters are carried out in accordance with the established rules of international trade.
The European Commission applies trade defence instruments in compliance with EU law and the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to protect EU industries against unfair trade practices such as dumped or subsidised imports. But third countries also apply trade defence measures against EU exporters. The European Commission's activities in this regard are wide ranging, and include bilateral contacts with third countries, monitoring whether procedural rules were respected, making sure that EU exporters are aware of the proceeding and giving them the necessary guidance to properly participate and defend themselves. In cases where there are substantial shortcomings in the practice of the third country, the European Commission is prepared to intervene and, in case of serious breaches of the rules which lead to unjustified measures being imposed, to take the matter to the WTO.
While the number of new trade defence investigations being carried out by third countries seems to be stabilising, the number of measures in force reached its highest level since the beginning of the global economic crisis in 2008, with a total of 146 measures in place in 2011. The complexity of the investigations is also increasing, which makes the European Commission's involvement more important in helping exporters to participate.
Several positive results were achieved in 2011. A number of cases in which the European Commission intervened were terminated without measures being imposed (e.g. Ukraine - petroleum products case, fridge case) or their negative impact reduced (e.g. Jordan - tiles: early termination of the measures). In addition, the number of trade defence measures taken by the United States against EU exporters continued to fall and in early 2012, the EU and the US were able to resolve the long-running "zeroing" dispute.
However, important problems still persist. In particular, trade defence measures imposed by China are a growing cause for concern. Further and even more intensive interventions will be necessary to solve them, including challenging their compatibility at WTO level if necessary. This process has begun on the X-ray scanners case where a WTO panel has been established at the beginning of 2012.
While the European Commission fully respects the right of third countries to take trade defence measures, it continues to be concerned by the low standards applied by many investigating authorities. The European Commission is therefore in the process of strengthening exchanges with other investigating authorities in order to ensure that the appropriate standards of transparency and predictability are mutually applied in the use of trade defence measures. This work is crucial, since it should enable the parties concerned to anticipate and avoid problems rather than trying to solve them in on-going investigations.