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Policy | Brussels, 25 February 2016

The EU delivers on its trade policy commitments for global development

The European Commission’s report released today confirms the EU’s leading role in putting trade policy at the service of inclusive growth and sustainable development. The EU has by now met its main policy objectives - set in 2012 - as regards the contribution of trade towards global development.

In line with the "Trade, Growth and Development" policy of 2012, the EU improved its one-way trade preferences, delivered on its Aid for Trade financial commitments, reinforced the sustainable development dimension in its trade policy instruments, and progressed on development-oriented trade agreements. It delivered on 33 specific objectives and continues working on the remaining 19.

The new EU trade policy strategy "Trade for All" of October 2015 sets a new framework for a continuous EU effort to make trade work for inclusive growth and sustainable development in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Highlights of the EU development-oriented trade policy:

  • Reform of the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP):
    The reformed scheme, put in place for a 10-year period on 1 January 2014, focuses preferences on countries most in need, in particular the least developed and low-income economies, as more advanced developing economies no longer need such support. The EU GSP offers beneficiaries a privileged access to the EU market and creates leverage for their economic development.
  • Record High Aid for Trade Contribution:
    The EU and its Member States collectively reconfirmed their position as the world's leading provider of trade-related assistance. The record-high €11.7 billion contribution of 2013 accounted for a third of the world-wide donors' spending. The EU focuses its support on implementation of trade agreements, effectiveness of GSP trade preferences, and regional integration efforts.
  • Set of Innovative Measures for Small Trading Firms:
    Working closely with the Geneva-based International Trade Centre,
    the EU helped setting tools that provide small companies in developing countries with information regarding conditions to access overseas markets, trade finance opportunities, sustainability certification schemes, as well as related capacity building opportunities. These successful pilot actions are now integrated into the EU's longer-term mainstream Aid for Trade activities.
  • Ambitious Agenda of Bilateral & Regional Trade Deals:
    Since 2012, the EU advanced the implementation of its existing agreements with developing countries, finalised several negotiations, including with three African regions, and started some new talks. The EU negotiating agenda includes the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with countries of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP), and free trade agreements (FTAs) with other developing countries in Asia, Latin America and the European neighbourhood. EU trade agreements take full account of development policy objectives. The EU often offers more than it expects in exchange, proportionately to the level of development of a partner country. These modern and comprehensive agreements deal not only with custom duties but also with behind-the-border issues, and include appropriate safety nets to ensure that trade goes hand in hand with sustainable development.
  • Sustainable Development at the Heart of Trade Policy:
    The EU has confirmed its position as a frontrunner when it comes to the inclusion of sustainable development objectives into trade policy. The EU has integrated sustainable development issues, such as labour rights and environmental protection, in the unilateral preferences through the GSP+ arrangement, as well as sustainable development chapters in its new generation bilateral trade agreements. The EU has also promoted the integration of sustainable development into trade policy at the multilateral level, including the WTO and the UN discussions on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Leading Role in Reaching WTO Development-Oriented Decisions:
    Building on its firm belief that the rules-based multilateral trading system established by WTO plays an invaluable role in creating a level-playing field for all countries, including the most vulnerable ones, the EU has played a leading role in the important decisions taken by the 9th and 10th Ministerial Conferences or the World Trade Organization (WTO) held respectively in Bali, Indonesia and Nairobi, Kenya.

For more information

Report on the Implementation of the 2012 Trade, Growth and Development Policy

EU trade and development policy