USA remains the main user of trade instruments against EU export

According to the 7th Annual Report presented by the European Commission to the Parliament and the Council of June 25th (COM(2010)334 final) which gives the overview of third country trade actions against the European Union, the number of new investigations and trade defence measures imposed in 2009 was very high. In the Commission opinion, the standards applied in a number of measures against EU exporters leave something to be desired.

2008 report highlighted the first signs of the global crisis and its impact on trade defence activity. In 2008, an impressive number of new investigations were initiated, in particular during the last two months of that year. Despite the commitment of the G20 to avoid any trade restrictive measures, the 7th Annual Report on third country trade actions against the EU shows that the trend started in 2008 has continued in 2009. The number of new investigations initiated and of measures imposed in 2009 has indeed increased significantly.

The 2009 TDI activity by third countries was very intense, especially in terms of new  initiations. The increasing trend observed since the end of 2008 has indeed continued. No less than 45 new investigations have been initiated in 2009, which is a steep increase as compared to the 33 new initiations in 2008 (of which almost half took place in the last quarter), and even more so when compared to the 19 new initiations in 2007.

USA, India, China Turkey and Brazil, main users of trade instruments against the EU

The main user of the instruments against the European Union is still the USA with 23 measures in force, even though in 2009 there was no activity in terms of new measures or initiations. India remains the second biggest user, with 15 measures in force, and has been very active in 2009, as explained above. China is now almost catching up with India and is together with Turkey in third position with 12 measures in force against the EU in 2009. The other important users are Brazil with 11, closely followed by Ukraine with 9 measures in force.

Safeguard is more than ever the most frequently used instrument for new investigations. Indeed, with 31 new safeguard investigations initiated, more than two out of three new cases concern this instrument.

  • The overall increase of new investigations since the end of 2008 has naturally resulted in a higher number of measures imposed in 2009: 33 new measures were imposed, as compared to 18 in 2008.
  • Despite that, the total number of measures in force increased only slightly. At the end of 2009, there were 136 trade defence measures in force, which is only 3 measures more than at the end of 2008.

In the Commission's opinion, this increase in activity is preoccupying as such, and certain aspects of it are especially worrying. In particular, the low standards of initiation and the extensive use of the safeguard instrument continue to be problematic. It seems that the economic situation since the end of 2008 has resulted in a particularly wide interpretation of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. Therefore, the Commission increased its efforts in orderto prevent any deviations from these rules whenever  possible.

The Commission commits itself to maintain and even enhance its efforts on EU exports defence. The  Commission is continuously trying to improve its actions and the most important challenge for the coming years, besides assisting the EU exporters concerned in on-going investigations, is to try to anticipate and avoid the initiation of unwarranted new investigations. Intensifying exchanges with other investigating authorities in order to increase standards, transparency and predictability could help in achieving this aim.