Plans to update the EU’s “trade defence instruments” — so as to beef up its efforts to combat dumped and subsidized imports from third countries — were backed by the International Trade Committee on Tuesday. However, MEPs also urged the EU to refine its method of calculating anti-dumping duties to take account of environmental, social and development concerns, and also to help small EU firms which find it difficult to take advantage of the instruments due to their complexity and costs.
“We have a proposal for an ambitious reform of trade defence instruments in the EU. We broadly agreed to improve it in order to add more transparency, accountability and speed, and also respond to concerns of SMEs who say it's currently extremely expensive and complicated to take part in anti-dumping investigations. Where we remained split, and what has now to be clarified by plenary vote, is the underlying principle in calculating the levels of anti-dumping duties", said rapporteur Christofer Fjellner (EPP, SE), after the International Trade committee had backed the proposal by 24 votes to 6, with no abstentions.
Social and environmental dumping should count
In today’s committee vote MEPs suggest that the EU should change the rules to allow it to impose stiffer duties on dumped or subsidized imported goods if the exporting country “does not have a sufficient level of social and environmental standards”, judged on the basis of environmental and labour rights conventions. At the same time, the EU should apply more moderate duties (by applying a “lesser duty rule”) when the subsidized imports come from a least-developed country wishing to pursue its “legitimate development goals”.
Defending small firms’ interests
MEPs point out that the complexity and expense of initiating anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations tend to make them the preserve of big-industry players. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), by contrast, are disadvantaged in their access to EU trade defence tools. They suggest remedying this via an SME help desk which would help SMEs to file complaints, achieve the necessary thresholds for investigations to be launched, and present evidence of dumping and damage caused by unfair imports.
They also suggest that for sectors largely made up of SMEs, investigation periods should be made to coincide with the financial year and that it should be possible to impose higher duties on imports of dumped or subsidized goods.
Responding faster to unfair imports
Trade MEPs in their amendments suggest that the EU should respond faster to unfair trade practices and that anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations should be limited to nine months (down from fifteen months, as initially proposed). They also suggest that provisional anti-dumping duties should be imposed no later than six months after the investigation has been launched (down from nine months)..
The current EU trade defence law dates back to 1995. Since then the EU’s trade relations with third countries have changed substantially and the value chain has become much more global. The proposed overhaul aims to make EU trade defence law more effective, adapt it to today’s challenges and trade patterns and also increase transparency and access for the EU businesses.
Most anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases launched by the EU have been against China.
The committee’s proposals will be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole, probably at the first plenary session in February, to give MEPs a mandate to enter into legislative negotiations with the Council. The aim will be to agree on the new law before the end of the current legislative term.
Procedure: Co-decision, first-reading amendments