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EU releases report on Implementation and Enforcement of EU Trade Agreements

The EU Report on Implementation and Enforcement of EU Trade Agreements replaces and consolidates into a single document two former reports that the EU used to prepare yearly: 1) the report on the implementation of EU trade agreements and 2) the Trade and Investment Barriers Report (TIBR). The latter is the document that the EU used to publish every year to analyse the barriers faced by EU businesses in third country markets and define a strategy to remove them.

The report on Implementation and Enforcement of EU Trade Agreements, apart from describing the impact of the most economically significant EU trade agreements (such as the Economic Partnership Agreements/EPAs concluded with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the Association Agreements concluded with Mediterranean countries), gives a state of play of the main trade barriers faced by EU businesses in third country markets, with the actions undertaken by the Commission to eliminate them.

The report is largely based on the trade barriers reported by EU companies on Access2Markets, a one-stop-shop for trade barriers identification that classifies these measures according to country of application, type of obstacle and affected sector.

The main findings of the report show that 2020 has seen a general rise of protectionism, mainly triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the main foreign partners that became more reluctant to remove barriers to trade with the EU. In total, at the end of 2020, 462 active trade and investment barriers have been identified in 66 third countries. Most of these barriers are represented by Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures, that remain the largest category of barriers faced by EU businesses abroad, accounting for about a quarter of all barriers recorded, followed by Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and tariff measures and quantitative restrictions.

These three categories accounted for almost 60% of all active barriers in 2020. With regard to TBT, they are represented by technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures that make the access of certain products to foreign market particularly difficult (e.g. mandatory labeling or testing and certification procedures, etc.).

For what concerns the geographical spread, in 2020 China remained the country with the highest barriers, followed by Russia, Indonesia, United States, India and Turkey. African countries with highest barriers included Algeria, Egypt (that also is the country where more barriers have been solved), and Morocco. The EU Commission disposes of a range of instruments, often applied in combination with each other to resolve trade barriers. These instrument include diplomatic channels, high-level dialogues with trading partners and the recourse to the WTO.

Investigations can also be launched under the EU’s Trade Barrier Regulation (TBR), a legal instrument that gives EU companies, industries, associations and Member States the right to lodge a complaint with the European Commission to tackle trade barriers and practices imposed by foreign governments or their agencies that are legally incompatible with the international trade rules.

An important finding of the report is that bilateral action has been one of the most effective channels for addressing trade barriers, which highlights how the cooperation between States (between the one impacted by the barrier and the one that has imposed it) remains a key methodology in solving obstacles affecting trade.




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