Trade barriers

Government authorities

What government office handles complaints from domestic exporters against foreign trade barriers at the WTO or under other agreements?

The EU Trade Barrier Regulation (EU) No. 2015/1843 provides a complaint mechanism for EU exporters that experience discriminatory trade practices in third countries.

EU exporters can contact DG TRADE, and if DG TRADE considers a complaint is adequately substantiated, it will conduct an investigation and take measures to address the situation. Normally, the EU Commission will first seek an amicable solution with the importing country via bilateral talks. If this is not possible or sufficient, the European Union can request consultations at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Complaint filing procedure

What is the procedure for filing a complaint against a foreign trade barrier?

Under article 5 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 2015/1843, a complaint may be lodged with the EU Commission by an EU industry sector or individual enterprises. The complaint must detail the obstacles to trade and the injurious effect caused to the EU industry or business. Upon receipt, the EU Commission will decide within 45 days whether to initiate an examination procedure.

Member states can also request that the EU Commission initiate an examination procedure

Grounds for investigation

What will the authority consider when deciding whether to begin an investigation?

When making its decision, the EU Commission considers the evidence of the existence of a trade barrier presented by the complainant and the adverse trade effects or injury resulting therefrom. Regard will also be had to the interests of the European Union as a whole, as well as to the wider implications that the decision may have for the EU’s common commercial policy.

Measures against foreign trade barriers

What measures outside the WTO may the authority unilaterally take against a foreign trade barrier? Are any such measures currently in force?

Under article 13(3) of Council Regulation (EC) No. 2015/1843, the European Union may take unilateral commercial policy measures, such as a suspension or withdrawal of concessions, an imposition (or increase) of customs duties or the introduction of quantitative restrictions.

However, concerning WTO members, article 13(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No. 2015/1843 first obliges the European Union to go through the WTO dispute settlement process. Regulation (EU) No. 654/2014 of the European Parliament and the Council of 15 May 2014 lays down specific provisions for the exercise of the EU’s rights for the application and enforcement of international trade rules. The European Union has adopted additional customs duties on certain steel products from the United States in response to the imposition by the United States of additional tariffs on imports of steel products from inter alia the European Union.

In practice, for most trading partners, the measures the European Union can take outside the WTO framework are limited to bilateral talks.

Private-sector support

What support does the government expect from the private sector to bring a WTO case?

For the European Union to bring a case to the WTO for dispute settlement, there must be a severe and clear enough infringement of the obligations of the third country that have a material impact on EU industry. In principle, the European Commission relies on industry to provide relevant market and industry facts and information but does not expect any particular legal support from the private sector to pursue a WTO action.

Notable non-tariff barriers

What notable trade barriers other than retaliatory measures does your country impose on imports?

Generally, the European Union does not maintain non-tariff barriers on imports. There are, however, import requirements, such as customs clearance formalities, and for certain products licensing, registration, classification, labelling and packaging requirements, at EU and member state level, for reasons of public health or safety, including military items, certain dual-use items, certain animal and plant products, endangered species, waste, biocides and other chemicals.

Import restrictions exist for instance at the national level for certain military items.

At EU level, the following goods are among those subject to non-tariff import restrictions and possibly intra-EU transfer restrictions: