Commission reports ‘intense’ spike in unfair trade practices

Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner in charge of Trade, during a press conference on the US restrictions on steel and aluminium affecting the EU. [European Commission]

The European Commission published on Tuesday (31 July) its annual report on trade defence measures, detailing 46 ongoing investigations for unfair commercial practices in 2017.

Although numbers are high, they remained fairly stable compared to 2016. The Commission described last year as “intense” in terms of the number of trade-related investigations as 11 out of the 46 investigations in the process were initiated in 2017 and two cases were re-opened. Extension of measures in ongoing investigations about to expire increased by 75%.

At the end of 2017, the EU had 97 anti-dumping measures and 13 countervailing measures in force. During the year, 12 cases were concluded with the imposition of trade duties and another two, without any kind of action.

As in previous years, no safeguard action was taken by the EU in 2017. It will not be the case next year.

Juncker pledges 'tit for tat' measures against US

The EU will respond to any provocation coming from the US on trade or any other matter, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned on Wednesday (18 July) ahead of his trip to Washington to meet Donald Trump next week.

This report does not include the ongoing trade disputes with China and the US. As a response to Trump administration restrictive measures on steel and aluminium exports, the EU approved safeguards and retaliatory measures and it launched a WTO settlement case.

“The EU remains an open market” despite these measures to protect European companies, the Commission argued.  The EU executive estimated that anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures concerned around 0.31% of total imports into the EU.

New legislative tools

The European Commission also highlighted that several legislative processes were completed in 2017.

Following the publication of a report on China, the Commission introduced a new anti-dumping methodology for countries where serious market distortions occur due to state interference.

In countries where domestic prices or costs are distorted due to state intervention, the Commission may apply other benchmarks instead of the standard way of calculating dumping.

EU squares up for battle over Chinese dumping

After two years of delays, EU ministers have finally agreed to strengthen the bloc’s trade defence instruments. The decision comes as Beijing prepares to fight the EU’s tariffs at the WTO. EURACTIV France reports.

“The EU is and will remain one of the most open markets in the world. We are and will remain in the first line defending open, fair and rules-based trade. This, however, should not be mistaken as naivety,” said Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker when the legislation entered into force.

The EU has also updated its trade defence instruments. According to the Commission, this new toolbox enables the EU to impose higher duties; shorten the investigation to accelerate the procedure or increase predictability for EU firms.

“We believe in open, rules-based trade. Now, we are better equipped to stand up for our companies if other countries don’t stick to the rules,” Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said in a statement.

“These amendments to the basic Regulations constitute a major overhaul of the EU’s trade defence policy and instruments for the benefit of all stakeholders,” the report of the Commission underlined.

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