The EU's Contribution to Member States' Services Promoting Foreign Trade and Investment: Value Added?

03-09-2013

The European business centres in Asia – and notably those in India, China and Thailand, which are already active – have yet to demonstrate that they offer significant value-added for European enterprises wishing to engage in Asian markets. Instead of being welcomed as EU complementarities, they are generally considered as duplications of Member States' own promotion instruments, and this in a field in which the EU as such does not hold competence. It is questionable why the EU's efforts to facilitate market access for European enterprises, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, were not built on the best practises of existing institutions, notably the bilateral chambers of commerce. The timing is also questionable: additional structures were created long before any assessment was undertaken of what is already available in third markets. The lack of coherence of the different EU centres' work plans, priority clusters and time frames impede Member States - also members of the consortiums of various EU centres – from integrating the EU centres into their own marketing activities. It is therefore little surprise that an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of these EU business centres in Asia revealed numerous flaws – an assessment that suggests the EU's strategy should be overhauled. It remains uncertain, however, whether and how the modest performance of the centres in India, China and Thailand will influence European Commission's plans for additional Asian centres.

The European business centres in Asia – and notably those in India, China and Thailand, which are already active – have yet to demonstrate that they offer significant value-added for European enterprises wishing to engage in Asian markets. Instead of being welcomed as EU complementarities, they are generally considered as duplications of Member States' own promotion instruments, and this in a field in which the EU as such does not hold competence. It is questionable why the EU's efforts to facilitate market access for European enterprises, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, were not built on the best practises of existing institutions, notably the bilateral chambers of commerce. The timing is also questionable: additional structures were created long before any assessment was undertaken of what is already available in third markets. The lack of coherence of the different EU centres' work plans, priority clusters and time frames impede Member States - also members of the consortiums of various EU centres – from integrating the EU centres into their own marketing activities. It is therefore little surprise that an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of these EU business centres in Asia revealed numerous flaws – an assessment that suggests the EU's strategy should be overhauled. It remains uncertain, however, whether and how the modest performance of the centres in India, China and Thailand will influence European Commission's plans for additional Asian centres.