The 2013/06/12 at 07:58
Ever since the onset of the financial crisis, Europe has observed an upturn in increasingly complex instruments from new countries attempting to slow down the circulation of European products. The European Union, the world’s leading exporter, believes itself to be the prime victim of these measures. From year to year, the Directorate General for Trade produces an inventory of the measures imposed by non-European countries on European goods. In 2012, 138 measures were recorded, a relatively stable level, while their number rose from 123 to 146 between 2010 and 2011. “Even if recourse to these instruments is legitimate, they should be used in a way that conforms to World Trade Organisation requirements,” reminds Alfredo Bonnet Baiget, the Spanish Secretary of State for Trade.
As in previous years, a striking majority of these measures – 94 in all – concerned anti-dumping activities. India has made intense use of this instrument, initiating a high number of measures against the European Union and the USA. China has also reinforced its position by initiating sixteen measures in 2012 while other countries such as Brazil and Turkey have cut down on their use of this instrument.
Amongst the 37 investigations carried out last year, mainly into safeguard measures, Indonesia comes out in first place, followed by China, Egypt and Turkey. Certain indicators show that China has initiated anti-dumping investigations into imports of European-produced polysilicone, in response to similar actions undertaken against its solar panels. “Such usage of instruments is not acceptable as it is not based on any real application of an allegedly damaged industry undergoing unfair competition, but a mere weakening of the legal basis,” comments the European Directorate General for Trade that sees no other solution than taking recourse to the World Trade Organisation’s Dispute Settlement Body. The European Commission has referred Chinese measures against X-ray security scanners from the EU to the Body – measures imposed in reaction to European measures on the same products from China.
Chinese solar equipment and Brazilian wine
The number of safeguard measures dropped significantly in 2012. However, as noted by the Directorate General for Trade, the number of safeguard investigations remains worrying. “The tendency towards using safeguards indiscriminately should draw our attention, for this instrument does not serve to fight against unfair competition practices but to prevent the arrival of exports whatever their origin on national markets,” indicates Alfredo Bonet Baiget. Indonesia thus increased its recourse to safeguard investigations, from three in 2011 to six in 2012.
Similarly, Egypt initiated four new investigations, ditto for the Eurasian Economic Commission (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan). In addition, Brazil instigated, in March 2012, a safeguard investigation into wine imports, a procedure affecting a yearly volume of European imports of Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese wines, to the value of 85 million euros! This despite the fact that the fully expanding Brazilian market has given signs of new opportunities in the country for European wine producers. Israel has not stayed out of the investigation game but has launched eight anti-dumping measures against the EU since 2009.
The Chambers get involved
In the face of these protectionist measures adopted more or less systematically ever since the arrival of the financial crisis, Eurochambres has not limited itself to issuing regular alerts to the European Commission. The body representing European CCIs has itself undertaken initiatives that identify a growing need for the private sector and Chambers of Commerce in particular to promote freedom of trade and investment on a global scale. In the case of India, China and the United States, European businesses face burgeoning restrictions and local requirements in certain strategic investment zones. “These obstacles affect services and the telecommunication sector in particular in the case of China and India, as well as producing discriminatory treatment resulting in the Buy American Act,” points out Eurochambres.
Also in this context, the Global Chamber Platform has been identified as one of the possible channels for cooperation. This Platform “draws together counterparts of Eurochambres, in other words the major national and transnational Chambers of Commerce all over the world, to discuss and plan initiatives such as the promotion of favourable trade and investment conditions.” As far as Eurochambres is concerned, it is also a matter of sending political decision-makers clear signals of a united front of Chambers against protectionism. In addition, as Eurochambres points out, the European Chambers of Commerce present in these non-EU countries have an important role to play in surveillance and reporting on the emergence of new trade barriers.