The European Commission is planning tougher action to prise open new markets for its companies in China, India and Russia, saying countries that fail to remove trade barriers will face further legal battles.
On 18 April 2007, Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson presented plans to update Europe’s outdated ten-year-old market-access strategy.
The aim of the review is to shift the focus from tariffs barriers – which have been significantly reduced over the past decade – to modern, non-tariff, “behind-the-border” barriers, which make it difficult for European companies to export products to key markets.
Obstacles faced by businesses today include burdensome customs procedures, discriminatory tax rules and technical regulations and non-enforcement of WTO rules.
Mandelson said that such trade barriers cost European exporters hundreds of billions of euro in lost sales each year. In China alone, the annual cost is estimated at €20 billion per year in lost opportunities.
The centre-piece of Mandelson’s strategy is a new “decentralised partnership” between the Commission and those with more experience of problems on the ground – companies, EU delegations and embassies of the 27 member states, which can more easily identify and tackle local trade barriers.
One of the main tasks of these new ‘market-access teams’ will be to scrutinise the protection of intellectual property rights – a growing problem for EU exporters, especially in China.