Teljes szöveg 
2005. április 13., Szerda - Strasbourg Lektorált változat

23. Adóügyi és környezetvédelmi dömping

  Presidente. Segue-se na ordem do dia a discussão conjunta das seguintes perguntas orais, à Comissão, sobre o dumping fiscal e ambiental do deputado Ford, em nome do Grupo Socialista no Parlamento Europeu, da deputada Mann, em nome do Grupo do Partido Popular Europeu (Democratas-Cristãos) e dos Democratas Europeus e do deputado Watson, em nome do Grupo da Aliança dos Democratas e Liberais pela Europa (B6-0172/2005),

- do deputado Jonckheer, em nome do Grupo dos Verdes/Aliança Livre Europeia (B6-0229/2005).


  Ford (PSE), author. Mr President, as the Commission will be aware, we have almost 300 jobs at risk at the British cellophane plant in Bridgwater in my constituency in the United Kingdom. This plant has been taken over by a company called Innovia, which currently has plants in Kansas, Carlisle and Bridgwater. What is being proposed threatens to rip the heart out of the town of Bridgwater; allowing for suppliers to the company, almost one thousand jobs are at risk in the area.

Tonight we have an almost unprecedented request from all parties – Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat – in the region and in the United Kingdom, who are united in their reaction to this appalling decision by Innovia and are asking for the Commission’s help and assistance.

What leads the company to make this decision? The plant in Kansas has never in its history made a profit; the plant in Bridgwater has never in its history made a loss. But we have a proposal to close Bridgwater. Why? Because the State of Kansas, led by a Democratic majority, who, in spite of the opposition of Republicans in the State House of Representatives and the State Senate, has offered Innovia certain things. The first is a bribe of USD 2 million to shift jobs from the European Union to the United States. The second is a five-year tax holiday, which means that all the taxes paid by the workforce will be paid back to the company over the next five years. And, most interestingly, it has offered a suspension of environmental regulations, which will allow the cellophane to be produced cheaply and re-exported back to the European Union.

I should like to ask the Commission whether these financial bribes are allowable under WTO rules. If not, will it raise the issue with the US Government? What will be done when Innovia produces cellophane in Kansas and dumps it back on the European market? How will the Commission tackle that problem? Also, while I agree that at the moment the WTO rules do not forbid environmental dumping, and while we recognise that different countries may have environmental standards that differ from ours, we object to the suspension of those different standards, something we are increasingly likely to see because of the Kyoto Agreement.

In the European scheme of things, this is comparatively small beer. Nevertheless, it is very important for the region. It is also very important in terms of the precedent it sets for the future, because if the United States, its companies and its State governments can get away with this on one occasion, there is absolutely no reason why they will not do it again and again. Therefore, this is an important issue of principle that the Commission needs to take seriously, and I expect some action.


  Jonckheer (Verts/ALE), auteur. Monsieur le Président, Monsieur le vice-président de la Commission, mon groupe a décidé de se joindre à cette question orale pour la compléter. La question posée par mon collègue Ford porte notamment sur la compatibilité avec les règles de l'OMC. Je voudrais pour ma part revenir sur une question qui concerne l'Union européenne et la situation à l'intérieur des frontières de l'Union.

Lors de la précédente législature, Le Conseil Ecofin s'était mis d'accord sur l'identification d'une soixantaine de mesures fiscales nationales au sein de l'Union européenne considérées comme relevant de la concurrence dommageable au sens où on l'entend dans les travaux menés notamment au sein de l'OCDE. Les dispositions de ce que l'on a appelé le code Primarolo – du nom du fonctionnaire qui présidait ce groupe de travail – portaient à la fois sur des clauses dites de standstill et sur des clauses de roll back, c'est-à-dire, en bon français, de démantèlement progressif des dispositions nationales ainsi identifiées de commun accord au sein du Conseil Ecofin.

Je constate que l'on ne parle plus beaucoup, ni au sein du Parlement ni dans les médias, de la situation de ce processus de démantèlement et je souhaiterais savoir quelle est l'opinion de la Commission sur ce processus. Je sais bien que la question relève fondamentalement de la compétence des États membres et qu'il s'agit d'un accord des États membres au sein du Conseil Ecofin. Ceci étant, la politique de la concurrence est une compétence exclusive de l'Union et la Commission a une mission très importante à cet égard. De ce point de vue, donc, je considère qu'elle devrait avoir un rôle incitatif et de surveillance, ou au moins d'alerte et d'information, quant à la vérification des engagements pris au sein du Conseil Ecofin.

Je compléterai cette question en vous disant – et vous le savez aussi bien que moi – que nous sommes très loin de l'harmonisation de l'impôt sur les sociétés et de la base imposable au sein de l'Union, qui ont fait l'objet de débats au sein de la Commission Prodi, menés sur la base des travaux de la Commission Prodi à propos d'un taux commun minimal d'imposition des sociétés au sein de l'Union. Or, il s'agit d'une évolution que mon groupe estime souhaitable.

Les décisions qui avaient été engagées au sein du Conseil Ecofin sont donc pour nous un minimum minimorum et je souhaiterais véritablement que la Commission puisse s'exprimer sur ce processus ce soir et dans les mois qui viennent. Je pense en effet que les problèmes que nous rencontrons dans un certain nombre de pays sur le projet de Constitution européenne ne nous aident pas, malheureusement, et qu'il y a une crainte légitime que la concurrence dommageable continue et s'accentue au sein de l'Union européenne. C'est pour cette raison qu'à mon avis, une mission politique extrêmement importante serait de veiller à ce qu'au moins, les engagements pris au sein du Conseil Ecofin soient respectés et que la Commission joue un rôle, tout comme le Parlement, dans l'évolution de ce processus.


  Watson (ALDE), author. Mr President, I rise on behalf of my Group to add my concern to that expressed by previous speakers about this terrible situation in relation to an innovative and, frankly, quite remarkable company in the constituency that Mr Ford and I represent.

Innovia Films is a profitable company, which has developed a process discovered in the United Kingdom in 1898. I suspect that had that process been discovered in Scandinavia in 1998, it would have been viewed as best available technology, plastic packaging would have been banned and cellophane would have been used instead. Sadly, for cellophane, it was discovered rather earlier. However, I welcome the cross-party support that is being shown for the campaign to recognise the problems being caused by the policy of the Americans and to deal with this issue.

This morning we debated the outcome of the European Council meeting held to review the Lisbon Agenda. In the resolution adopted by Parliament with cross-party support, we agreed that there has to be such a thing as industrial policy. If there is industrial policy, then we have to look at how we can support companies like this one. When I wrote to Commissioner Piebalgs on behalf of the company some while ago, in order to see whether any kind of support was available for that company, he replied that there are programmes that support new and innovative systems, but this case would not be eligible for such support. I wonder if we should not be looking again at our industrial policy.

The letter from Commissioner Mandelson to Mel Dando, one of the trade union officers involved, looks at the problems that we have encountered with the policy at the plant in Kansas, as regards declaring a tax holiday and suspending environmental regulations. Mr Mandelson points out that the measures, in the form of tax exemptions, appear to be subsidies but do not fall into the prohibited category. He then goes on to point out that there are no provisions in the WTO agreements that cover environmental dumping and says that, therefore, these measures appear not to be in breach of current WTO rules.

My question to the Commission will be this: if there are no provisions in the WTO agreements that cover environmental dumping, why not? What is the Commission doing to ensure that we have provisions to cover environmental dumping? This incident, affecting, as Mr Ford said, perhaps not a huge number of jobs when viewed on a European scale, but a very large number of jobs when viewed on the scale of a small industrial town like Bridgwater, is one that could be replicated right across the European Union if we found that the policy of different States in the United States of America in this area was about to rob us of jobs in this way.

This is the ugly face of capitalism. We have here a buy-out of a company by a consortium dedicated to asset-stripping and to returning as much money as possible to the investors without looking at the general health of our society and our industries. It is the kind of case on which the Commission should take action. I hope that Commissioner Verheugen, the Commissioner here tonight, and Commissioner Mandelson will raise this case with the Americans and see what we can do to get action to save the plant in Bridgwater and to save potentially many other hundreds of thousands of jobs across the European Union that could be affected by this kind of development.


  Parish (PPE-DE), author. Mr President, I welcome the opportunity to debate fiscal and environmental dumping with regard to British Cellophane in Bridgwater. British Cellophane has had a long and honourable history spanning more than 50 years. It has an enormous background of industrial muscle and might in Bridgwater. Bridgwater is also one of the leading industrial towns in the West Country.

Over the long term, the workforce at British Cellophane has been reduced but it has always had an outstanding productivity level, an outstanding relationship with its employees and has given outstanding help to the town at all levels.

Cellophane is a massively important commodity throughout the world. British Cellophane produces approximately 60 000 tonnes per year. The commodity has been produced in highly productive, motivated and profitable plants. In the past few years the company has changed dramatically: it was bought by Candell Investments and I should like to talk about three of its five plants.

Two plants are in Britain and one is in America. The two in Britain are productive, motivated plants, one in the north and one in Bridgwater. I wish to dwell on the third plant in Kansas.

Kansas State legislators have spent an enormous amount of money to keep the plant there. We are talking about millions of dollars, not a few hundred thousand. They voted publicly to give public money to the plant and they have also been given a five-year environmental holiday to further undermine British Cellophane’s prospects. It does not stop there. The plant is unproductive and does not make a profit. Why would one give money to a plant that does not make a profit and is not productive, whether it is in China, Australia or America?

Three hundred UK jobs in a profitable, highly productive plant are being put under threat by a plant that does not meet the WTO rules. Every year British Cellophane puts approximately GBP 20 million into the economy from wages, direct and indirect goods. We are talking about a profitable and highly productive plant. It has done everything to change and it out-performs the Americans by far. It produces more and better quality goods. The plant has done everything to stay profitable. We should not allow it to be sacrificed simply because an American plant can get away with something that we cannot.

The subsidies are unfair trade, involve unfair dumping and the use of unfair competition against profitable plants. We should not allow this to happen. If this is a world of free trade, the World Trade Organization should be asked to consider this matter. I ask the Commission to take this up urgently. There is cross-party support for this. I believe that the WTO should act. I urge the Commission to take up the case.


  Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, let me begin by dealing with the specific case at issue. The Commission is aware of the plans for the closure and possible relocation of the Innovia Films plant in Bridgwater and we have asked the services to examine whether the measures taken by the State of Kansas constitute a breach of WTO rules. We will also explore, in cooperation with the Member States concerned, whether any other remedy is available under international law in this situation.

I wish to add that my own political judgement with regard to this case is absolutely the same as that expressed by honourable Members in the debate. If US State aid rules apply in Kansas, that is certainly a practice that is not allowed here. However, fortunately or unfortunately, the State of Kansas is not part of the European Union.

In particular this involves looking at the possibilities offered by the complaint procedure in the context of the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, which state that OECD enterprises should refrain from seeking or accepting exemptions not contemplated in the statutory or regulatory framework related to environmental, health, safety, labour, taxation, financial incentives or other issues. It should be noted, however, that these guidelines and the recommendations that may result from the complaint procedure are not legally binding.

As regards the WTO, the Commission is evaluating the compatibility of the measures taken in Kansas with the WTO agreement on subsidies and countervailing measures. These rules, while in principle allowing WTO members to decide on their own fiscal regime, prohibit tax exemptions when they directly promote exports. That is the case that we have to examine: whether the measures in Kansas directly promote exports. If so, they run against WTO rules.

I wish to add a few general remarks on the role of the WTO in the area of environmental policy. Let me first stress that WTO members have explicitly recognised the importance of working towards sustainable development and making international trade and environmental policies mutually supportive. The European Union plays a particularly active role in this respect, but the work is not complete. WTO members are free to choose their own environmental policy at national, regional and, in the case of multilateral environmental agreements, global level. This also implies that any action against illegal breaches of existing regional, national or international environmental legislation should be taken at those levels.

The appropriate answer to ‘environmental dumping’ at global level is, therefore, to enhance environmental governance by means of legally binding instruments such as multilateral environmental agreements, and the Commission is very active in that field.

As regards the other question raised, about harmful tax competition in the European Union, all EU Member States are committed to the code of conduct on business taxation. The code aims at combating specific tax measures that affect, or may affect, the location of business within the Community. Almost all the harmful tax measures identified following a peer review process have been or are in the process of being removed. More generally, the Commission’s tax policy aims at promoting the principles of the code towards third countries in order to tackle harmful tax competition on as wide a geographical basis as possible. In this respect, the Commission has already included a reference to the principles of the code in several international agreements with third countries and aims at including this reference in future agreements. Furthermore, the Commission supports the OECD efforts to remove harmful tax practices.


  Mann, Erika, im Namen der PSE-Fraktion. Herr Präsident, Herr Kommissar, verehrte Kolleginnen und Kollegen! Ich möchte nach den vier Kollegen, die bislang gesprochen haben, eine weitere Frage zu der angesprochenen Problematik an Sie richten. Seit 1992 haben wir mit den Vereinigten Staaten die New Transatlantic Agenda, und im Rahmen dieser Agenda gibt es Dialoge, die unterschiedlich gut funktionieren. Wir wissen, dass der business dialogue sehr gut funktioniert, und auch der Konsumentendialog funktioniert sehr gut. Wir machen aber seit vielen Jahren immer wieder die Beobachtung, dass es große Schwierigkeiten bei dem Dialog gibt, der eigentlich die Arbeitnehmer zusammenführen sollte, nämlich bei dem so genannten labour dialogue. Das hat unterschiedliche Gründe; teilweise hat es mit den verschiedenen Traditionen auf amerikanischer und europäischer Seite zu tun.

Ich möchte Sie dringend bitten, bei der Vorbereitung für das nächste Gipfeltreffen, das ja im Sommer stattfinden wird, noch einmal gemeinsam mit dem Rat und auch in der Kommission zu überlegen, was Sie von Ihrer Seite aus tun können, um diesen Dialog zu unterstützen. Das ist zwar etwas, was den Gewerkschaften überlassen sein sollte, nichtsdestotrotz wird es meiner Erfahrung nach notwendig sein, hier noch einmal zu schauen, was wir in den verschiedenen europäischen Institutionen tun können, um diesen Dialog wirklich am Leben zu erhalten oder vielleicht auch wieder zum Leben zu erwecken.

Ich könnte mir denken, dass dieses Beispiel ein guter Fall ist, auf den Sie Bezug nehmen können, um zu versuchen, diesen Dialog wieder zu beleben. Im Übrigen würde ich auch empfehlen, die Problematik im Rahmen des business dialogue anzusprechen und direkt mit den Unternehmen zu reden und zu sehen, ob es hier nicht Möglichkeiten der Verständigung gibt, so dass vor allem die Leitsätze der OECD, die Sie angesprochen haben, auch tatsächlich in die Praxis umgesetzt werden und nicht von verschiedenen Staaten – in diesem Fall von Kansas, aber es hätte auch jeder andere Staat sein können – außer Kraft gesetzt werden.

Mir scheint das enorm wichtig zu sein, denn wenn wir uns in einem globalisierten Kontext befinden und einen Wettbewerb haben, der auf internationaler Ebene mit Sicherheit nicht einfacher, sondern schwieriger werden wird, dann gehört es sich, dass zumindest die Staaten, die im Rahmen der OECD operieren, den Kodex auch tatsächlich einhalten. Könnten Sie zu diesem Punkt noch einmal Stellung nehmen, und können Sie sich vorstellen, zu versuchen, dies als Diskussionspunkt aufzunehmen?

Zu dem zweiten Punkt, den Sie angesprochen haben, nämlich dass die Kommission und der Rat – wie im Übrigen auch das Parlament – seit vielen Jahren darauf drängen, die Diskussion im Rahmen der WTO zu intensivieren und auch über labour standards, über Umweltstandards, über Sozialstandards zu reden: Es erscheint mir angebracht, im Rahmen der laufenden Runde dieses Thema noch einmal aufzugreifen – ich weiß, das wird sehr schwierig sein –, und ich kann Ihnen versprechen, dass wir im Rahmen der Entschließung des Parlaments hierauf noch einmal Bezug nehmen werden.


  Krahmer, im Namen der ALDE-Fraktion. Herr Präsident! Ich möchte auf den vorliegenden Text der Anfrage der Grünen eingehen und unabhängig von möglicherweise zu ahndenden Verstößen gegen die WTO an den Fragesteller direkt ein paar Fragen richten.

Herr Juncker, Sie befürchten in Ihrem Text, dass der Abbau von Handelshemmnissen zu Steuerdumping führt. Im gleichen Text erwähnen Sie Subventionen, die das multilaterale Handelssystem schwächen. Glauben Sie nicht, dass es einen Zusammenhang zwischen hohen Steuern und hohen Subventionen gibt? Gehen Sie davon aus, dass in einer Welt ohne tarifäre Handelshemmnisse und dadurch entstehenden Wettbewerb Sozial- und Umweltstandards automatisch immer nur sinken? Haben Sie Angst vor Wettbewerb, weil Sie ihn ausschließlich im Zusammenhang mit den Wörtern "schädlich" und "Dumping" erwähnen?

Was führt eigentlich zu Wohlstand und zu Arbeitsplätzen? Ein Waren- und Dienstleistungsaustausch in offenen Märkten ohne Handelshemmnisse oder eher abgeschottete Märkte mit hohen Handelshemmnissen? Sind Sie mit mir der Auffassung, dass nur eine wettbewerbsfähige Volkswirtschaft in der Lage ist, hohe Umweltstandards zu erfüllen? Sollten wir deshalb nicht endlich aufhören, ständig zu behaupten, dass niedrige Steuern und offene Märkte mit niedrigen Umwelt- und Sozialstandards gleichzusetzen sind? Mich interessiert dazu auch die Meinung des Kommissars.


  Portas, em nome do Grupo GUE/NGL. Boa noite Senhor Presidente, é um prazer ter um compatriota a dirigir hoje à noite a sessão. O caso aqui referido, a vontade de deslocalizar uma fábrica de celofane do Reino Unido para o Estado do Kansas só é apetecível pela derrogação, por este Estado, da sua legislação fiscal e ambiental.

Infelizmente isto não é uma excepção à regra porque a regra é exactamente a que impele a este tipo de comportamentos. Este caso, bem como o anterior referido da Alstom ilustra bem um problema que se conhece, o das deslocalizações por razões de competitividade anti-social ou anti-ambiental. Poderia dar-vos igualmente vários casos em Portugal.

Ainda anteontem estiveram aqui em Estrasburgo trabalhadores da Yasaki Saltano, grupo que em Portugal tem duas unidades fabris, entre uma dezena na Europa. Esta multinacional de origem japonesa já deu trabalho a 7.500 pessoas em Portugal. Hoje são metade e ainda ontem a administração ameaçou que, ou o meu governo a apoia de novo, ou até Agosto serão despedidos outros 500 trabalhadores. Convém dizer que esta empresa recebeu terrenos e infra-estruturas gratuitamente e que fundos comunitários a alimentaram durante anos e que a percentagem de doenças profissionais, de artrite, é excepcionalmente alta e que esse é o argumento da administração não para fazer despedimentos mas para convencer os doentes a despedirem-se.

Senhor Presidente, esta mentira tem que ter um ponto final. É triste verificar a confissão de incapacidade, de impotência da Comissão face a casos destes. Porque essa impotência é uma desistência. Porque de facto os Estados Unidos e a União Europeia não defendem na Organização Mundial do Comércio apenas o fim do proteccionismo, no dia seguinte repõem-no ou estabelecem vantagens comparativas com base na deslealdade. É indispensável que a quebra do proteccionismo seja acompanhada da elevação dos direitos sociais e das exigências ambientais. Eis a alternativa à ordem liberal. Depois não nos queixemos do Kansas.


  Lundgren (IND/DEM). Herr talman! Jag konstaterar med tillfredsställelse att vi här ikväll diskuterar frågor som verkligen bör diskuteras och avgöras i kammaren. Det är tyvärr alltför vanligt att ledamöterna ägnar sig åt debatt och beslutsfattande som enligt subsidiaritetsprincipen inte hör hemma i denna kammare, men i detta fall är saken klar.

EU har en gemensam handelspolitik. Parlamentet har därför starka skäl att bevaka åtlydnaden av reglerna för global frihandel. Ett sådant system är den viktigaste vägen för att höja välståndet i både fattiga och rika länder, men systemet förutsätter att enskilda länder och handelsblock inte bedriver protektionism, som ofta har formen av tullar och andra handelshinder. Den kan också ha formen av subventioner eller specialregler för viss produktion för att locka till sig eller behålla verksamheter som annars inte skulle klara sig i internationell konkurrens.

Sådana frågor regleras av WTO. Jag förenar mig med de andra talare i kammaren som har krävt att kommissionen snarast vidtar åtgärder mot länder och delstater i unioner som bryter mot WTO:s bestämmelser. Det är dock viktigt att se den principiella skillnaden mellan otillåtna och tillåtna medel, mellan produktionsvänlig politik och dumpning. Det är inte otillåtet att välja en allmänt låg skattenivå för att gynna tillväxten. Det som är otillåtet är att gynna utvalda företag eller branscher med skatteförmåner. Det kallas skattedumpning. Det är likaså tillåtet att ha förhållandevis låga ambitioner i ett lands miljöpolitik under en fas när landet är fattigt och måste prioritera tillväxten. Så gjorde dagens rika länder när de var fattiga. Det som är otillåtet är att ge särskilda dispenser från gällande miljökrav i syfte att gynna enskilda företag eller branscher. Det kallas miljödumpning.

Jag hemställer att kommissionen i sin analys och sina åtgärder tydligt skiljer mellan legitima regler för att gynna tillväxt och välstånd och illegitima dumpningsmetoder.


  Ford (PSE), author. Mr President, in view of the fact that Commissioner Verheugen has stated that the Commission is investigating whether the subsidies are directly promoting exports – which would be illegal – I should like to ask him, on behalf of the Commission, to write to the company to ask it to defer its decision on the plant closure, which is due within 15 days, until that has been established.


  Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. I shall pass on that question to my colleague, Mr Mandelson, who is in charge of the file.

I should like to say to Mrs Mann that I take note of and fully accept the recommendations. I will ensure that the issue is discussed at European-American business round tables and in other fora.


  Presidente. Está encerrado o debate.

A votação terá lugar amanhã, às 12h00.

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