Update on duty suspensions/tariff quotas

  1. January 2013 Round

The formal proposal for the January 2013 round was not yet available when this newsletter was drafted, but should soon be submitted to the Council for adoption by the end of the year.

  1. July 2013 Round

EU Member States had to forward applications for a new duty suspension or tariff quota in the July 2013 round to the European Commission by 15 September 2012. The first meeting of the Economic Tariff Questions Working Group (ETQG) to discuss the requests submitted by the Member States should take place between 20 October and 15 November 2012.

GSP preferences for Burma/Myanmar

On 17 September 2012, the European Commission presented a proposal for a Regulation to reinstate GSP preferences for Burma/Myanmar under the EU’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) regime granting duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market for all products, except for arms and armaments. The Commission is proposing to reinstate tariff preferences retroactively as of 13 June 2012, the date of the adoption by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of a Resolution lifting most of the ILO’s restrictions for Burma/Myanmar.

The Commission proposal has been submitted to the Council and the EP for discussion and adoption.

Duty-free access for goods from Pakistan

On 13 September 2012, the EP approved a Commission proposal for a regulation to grant either an exemption from customs duties or tariff-rate quotas for 75 types of goods originating in Pakistan. However, as a condition for its approval, the EP inserted a safeguard clause to protect the EU’s textiles, garments, ethanol and leather sectors, providing for the imposition of duties if EU imports of these products grow by 25% or more. The EP also inserted amendments which should enable the EU to withdraw these trade preferences should Pakistan impose restrictions on exports of raw materials used to produce goods covered by the regulation. Pakistan’s trade preferences are also tied to its human rights performance.

This measure will apply from the date of publication of the regulation in the EU Official Journal until 31 December 2013.

FTA update

The following notable developments have occurred in relation to the EU’s on-going or pending Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations in recent months:

  1. Japan

Discussions on the Commission’s draft mandate for free trade negotiations (which must be approved by the Council before negotiations can be launched) are currently on-going within the Council.

A roundtable on the EU-Japan scoping exercise took place within the EP’s International Trade (INTA) Committee on 19 September 2012. The EP is expected to adopt a resolution on the possible launch of FTA negotiations as well, even if the Council alone is responsible for approving the Commission’s negotiating mandate.

  1. USA

The EU and the US government have launched public consultations asking industry associations and other interested stakeholders for concrete suggestions on regulatory issues for a possible future trade agreement. Contributions have to be submitted by 31 October 2012. These contributions will subsequently be discussed at a meeting in the fall involving EU and US regulators, economic policy agencies and stakeholders.

  1. Canada

Following technical working sessions (including on rules of origin) held in September, the EU is hopeful that it is entering the final stage of trade negotiations with Canada in the coming months to enable conclusion by the end of the year. Outstanding European demands include patent protection for pharmaceuticals, investment protection and agricultural market access.  

  1. India

The EU and India have previously announced their intention to complete FTA negotiations by December 2012, but recent discussions within the EU institutions indicate that it may take longer than that due to the uncertain political climate in India. A chief negotiators’ meeting was held in August – during which outstanding issues relating to car tariffs, services and public procurement were discussed – and a round of bilateral negotiations at senior level is expected towards November or December. In the meantime, the EU has welcomed the Indian government’s recent move to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in aviation and increased clarity in single-brand retail.

  1. Malaysia

Technical Working Groups focussing on a number of technical negotiating areas met in Kuala Lumpur in September 2012. At the same time, the EU has indicated that it does not expect substantial political progress in these negotiations until after the expected upcoming elections in Malaysia.

  1. Singapore

Following recent chief negotiator meetings, the EU foresees imminent conclusion of its FTA negotiations with Singapore, even if certain outstanding issues relating to services and rules of origin still require further discussion.

  1. Central America/Peru and Colombia

While the EP is expected to vote on formal consent to the FTAs signed by the EU with Central America and Peru/Colombia in the coming months, institutional discussions on the implementation of the bilateral safeguard clause and the stabilisation mechanism for bananas in the same agreements are on-going.

  1. Mercosur

While exchange of market access offers is still pending, the next round of trade negotiations is scheduled to take place in Brasilia in October 2012.

  1. Vietnam

Following the official launch of these negotiations on 26 June 2012, the first formal round of negotiations between the EU and Vietnam will take place during the week of 8 October 2012.