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Procedure : 2007/2185(INI)
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Document selected : A6-0002/2008

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PV 18/02/2008 - 26
CRE 18/02/2008 - 26

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PV 19/02/2008 - 6.19
CRE 19/02/2008 - 6.19
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Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - Strasbourg
The EU's Strategy to deliver market access for European companies

European Parliament resolution of 19 February 2008 on the EU's Strategy to deliver market access for European companies (2007/2185(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled "Global Europe: A stronger partnership to deliver market access for European exporters" (COM(2007)0183),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled "Global Europe: competing in the world. A contribution to the EU's Growth and Jobs Strategy" (COM(2006)0567),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission entitled "Global Europe: Europe's trade defence instruments in a changing global economy. A Green Paper for public consultation" (COM(2006)0763),

–   having regard to its resolution of 28 September 2006 on the EU's economic and trade relations with India(1),

–   having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2006 on the annual report from the Commission to the European Parliament on third country anti-dumping, anti-subsidy and safeguard action against the Community (2004)(2),

–   having regard to its resolution of 4 April 2006 on the assessment of the Doha Round following the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong(3),

–   having regard to its resolution of 12 October 2006 on economic and trade relations between the EU and Mercosur with a view to the conclusion of an Interregional Association Agreement(4),

–   having regard to its resolution of 1 June 2006 on EU-US transatlantic economic relations(5),

–   having regard to its resolution of 13 October 2005 on prospects for trade relations between the EU and China(6),

–   having regard to the Commission staff working document accompanying the Communication from the Commission entitled "Economic reforms and competitiveness: key messages from the European Competitiveness Report 2006" (SEC(2006)1467),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission entitled "Implementing the Community Lisbon Programme: A policy framework to strengthen EU manufacturing - towards a more integrated approach for industrial policy" (COM(2005)0474),

–   having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the European Council, held on 23 and 24 March 2006,

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 March 2006 on the input to the Spring 2006 European Council in relation to the Lisbon Strategy(7),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission entitled "EU − China: Closer Partners, growing responsibilities" (COM(2006)0631) and the accompanying working document entitled "Closer Partners, Growing Responsibilities: A policy paper on EU-China trade and investment: Competition and Partnership" (COM(2006)0632),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission entitled "Implementing the Community Lisbon Programme – Modern SME Policy for Growth and Employment" - (COM(2005)0551),

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade and the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (A6-0002/2008),

A.   whereas the European Union is a key player in world trade and should continue to show leadership in the global economic system in order to make it fairer and more respectful of environmental and social rights,

B.   whereas the European Union is the world's largest exporter and the biggest service provider and has therefore a strong interest in ensuring that new markets for goods, services and investments are opened,

C.   whereas the European Union needs to implement more ambitious and forward-looking strategies in order to meet the challenges of globalisation and to confront increased competition from major emerging economies, while preserving the European economic, regional and social model and promoting human rights and social and environmental standards,

D.   whereas economic openness both at home and abroad is vital for creating jobs and growth as well as for maintaining international competitiveness; whereas the European Union should therefore, within the framework of the market access strategy, continue its work of opening EU markets as well as encouraging its trading partners to bring down their own barriers and further open their markets,

E.   whereas adequate access to third-country markets will enable EU domestic producers to remain leaders in high added-value goods and services, enhance the innovation of their products, promote creativity, protect intellectual property rights (IPRs) and achieve significant economies of scale,

F.   whereas developments in international trade make access to third-country markets as important as defending EU markets from unfair trading practices,

G.   whereas trade liberalisation and the increasing volume of trade promote international competition, but also increase the risk of exports being subject to trade barriers, which have a damaging impact on the international competitiveness of EU firms,

H.   whereas the competitiveness of the EU economy is undoubtedly affected by protectionist behaviour which is not based on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, whether inside or outside the Community,

I.   whereas the dismantling of trade barriers will certainly enhance Europe's exports of goods and services and guarantee steady growth in the EU economy,

J.   whereas account should be taken of the ineffective protection of IPRs, including geographical indications and appellations of origin, by the European Union's trading partners globally,

K.   whereas it is of the utmost importance to make a distinction between a priori unjustified trade barriers resulting from the incoherent implementation of established bilateral and multilateral trade rules, and trade barriers resulting from the legitimate legislative and administrative activity of public authorities that originate in fields other than trade but have unintended consequences on trade,

L.   whereas burdensome customs procedures for import, export and transit and sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions not justified under existing WTO rules, the unfair use of trade defence instruments (TDIs) and poor protection of IPRs are clearly a priori unjustified trade barriers which need to be addressed in order to facilitate market access for EU companies,

M.   whereas, despite the extreme difficulty of estimating with any accuracy the volume of EU trade hampered by foreign market restrictions, it seems clear that trade barriers have a significant impact on overall EU export performance,

N.   whereas the European Union's economic presence is generally stronger in industrialised countries where demand is static but significantly weaker in rapidly growing areas and in emerging markets such as China and India,

O.   whereas the European Union is generally considered to be a very open and transparent market which tackles anti-competitive behaviours seriously and guarantees fair conditions to all imports irrespective of their origin,

P.   whereas high tariffs still constitute a significant obstacle to trade, especially in relations with major emerging countries,

Q.   whereas the WTO is the only effective forum for securing market access and achieving fair and equitable trade globally; whereas the projection of the European governance model should contribute to the further development of suitable, fair rules and ensure a more stable and more comprehensive regulatory system for world trade,

R.   whereas it is in the Commission's general interest to ensure that the commercial legislation and practices adopted by its partners comply as far as possible with WTO and other international rules,

S.   whereas obstacles to trade and behind-the-border barriers not only damage trade in goods but also significantly affect trade in services and public procurement,

T.   whereas solving problems and being more effective in the defence of industry's legitimate interests and expectations would also be beneficial for the European Union in terms of visibility and credibility,

U.   whereas meeting the objectives of the revised Lisbon Agenda requires industries in the European Union to develop and sustain stable competitive positions in the global market,

V.   whereas this competitiveness, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), increasingly relies on research, development, innovation and IPRs,

W.   whereas two prerequisites of this competitiveness are a safe and secure energy supply on the one hand, and unimpeded access for EU businesses to state-of-the-art information and communication technologies on the other hand,

General overview

1.  Stresses that the successful implementation of a revised, more ambitious market access strategy, intended to open new world markets to EU products and services, is likely not only to expand the European Union's global role, but also to protect existing jobs and create new jobs in Europe, enhance the European Union's competitiveness and thus substantially contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy;

2.  Recalls that the European Union's strategy to deliver market access is intended specifically to address developed and emerging economies;

3.  Stresses that the European Union's performance in exports to both developed and emerging economies is often hindered by a lack of reciprocity as regards market access conditions, an insufficient degree of compliance with international trade rules and the proliferation of unfair trading practices;

4.  Urges the Commission to ensure that the European Union's legitimate trade interests are defended against the abusive or unfair trade practices of third countries; takes the view that, when third countries unjustifiably restrict access to their markets by EU companies, the European Union should react rapidly and firmly;

5.  Notes the increasing importance of regulatory issues in international trade; calls for greater consistency between EU rules and practices and those of its main trading partners; emphasises that the harmonisation of rules and regulations should not lead to a weakening of health, safety or environmental and social laws in Europe, but instead trigger the adoption of better rules by the European Union's major trading partners;

6.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to adopt a long-term approach to structural distortions that, by their nature, are likely to continue or recur even after the Commission has taken steps; urges the Commission not to disregard cases in which there is no likelihood of the early elimination of barriers where their removal is nevertheless needed to restore a level playing-field in key foreign markets;

7.  Calls on the Commission to consider serious and systematic breaches of the WTO agreements and rules and other international trade laws as requiring a prompt remedy, and to ensure that the enforcement of such rules is not subordinated to political and economic considerations other than those relevant to the case in hand;

8.  Urges third countries to lift foreign ownership restrictions on European companies and to remove discriminatory rules;

9.  Welcomes the approach suggested by the Commission on the identification of market access priorities, but urges it also to consider other criteria which would ensure that this new initiative assists the largest possible number of economic operators in the European Union and in particular SMEs, whose survival depends ineluctably on the clear definition and the effective enforcement of IPRs and definitive restrictions on monopoly rents;

10.  Stresses that success in the fight against trade barriers will stimulate investment, production and trade in the European Union and worldwide by, inter alia, making market access conditions more transparent, predictable and competitive and establishing or strengthening the link between the European Union and international markets;

11.  Believes that Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with the European Union's target countries will be meaningless unless they secure significant market access and real progress in reducing and eventually eliminating non-tariff barriers which, it is worth recalling, are often more trade distorting than tariff barriers;

The Commission's Communication

12.  Welcomes the Commission's initiative to set up a stronger partnership to deliver market access for European exporters, and in particular to achieve concrete results for European businesses by improving market access in emerging markets where European businesses encounter new and complex barriers to trade and investment; and welcomes the Commission's initiative to coordinate the objectives and tools of the European Union's trade policy and market access strategy in a way that effectively harnesses the European Union's potential in the fields of international trade and global competitiveness;

13.  Welcomes, in particular, the Commission's proposals for establishing a stronger partnership between the Commission, the Member States, and EU businesses with a view to directly helping economic operators overcome the concrete difficulties they encounter in accessing third-country markets in a manner and time frame that is compatible with business reality;

14.  Takes the view that the Commission can play a significant role in the implementation of the new market access strategy by ensuring an appropriate degree of coordination between actions at national and Community level, harnessing resources which would otherwise be scattered and securing a more efficient defence of European exporters' rights and interests;

15.  Takes the view that the European Union has an irreplaceable role to play in guaranteeing a level playing-field in international trade in close cooperation with the Member States and having regard to the principle of subsidiarity and the balance of existing competencies;

16.  Emphasises the importance of a periodic qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the results of the market access strategy to assess its effectiveness; calls on the Commission to develop an appropriate market access action plan and submit a yearly report on market access to Parliament similar to the one which is already submitted in relation to TDIs;

17.  Urges European companies, which are legitimately competing against each other inside and outside the European Union, to adopt a cooperative approach to a new market access strategy, bearing in mind that opening foreign markets and ensuring free and fair trade serves their common interest and thus requires common and coordinated efforts;

18.  Regrets that several reasonable and experience-based recommendations from the business community, trade unions, consumers' organisations, and civil society, have been disregarded in the above mentioned Communication entitled "Global Europe: A stronger partnership to deliver market access for European exporters"; and urges the Commission to take them into consideration when implementing that Communication;

Market access initiatives in the European Union

19.  Stresses the need for further cooperation between the Commission and the Member States with a view to sharing information and good practices; calls on the Member States to create networks of national or, if appropriate, regional help desks to centralise information and claims, with special attention being paid to the interests and needs of SMEs;

20.  Takes the view that the efficacy of such networks would be significantly enhanced if national and local industry associations, chambers of commerce, SME associations and trade promotion agencies participated in the setting-up process;

21.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to enhance the role of the Market Access Advisory Committee (MAAC) and to ensure permanent liaison with the Article 133 Committee (named after the relevant article of the EC Treaty), the Trade Barriers Regulation Committee and other relevant committees;

22.  Calls on the Commission to set up a system of permanent dialogue enabling Member States and, when appropriate, regions and other European stakeholders to share information and define strategies and priorities;

23.  Calls on the Commission to consider the following when implementing its market access strategy:

   appointing more Brussels-based staff to the unit dealing with market access issues;
   creating an effective complaints register within DG Trade;
   developing structured guidelines for dealing with each category of non-tariff barrier;
   creating a help-desk for Member States and companies (with a section dedicated to SMEs) within DG Trade;
   revising and enhancing the communication policy relating to market access services provided by the Commission, with particular emphasis on SMEs;
   increasing the number of potential users by offering basic information (e.g. brochures and leaflets) in all the official languages of the European Union;
   improving the Market Access Database (MADB) to better meet business needs and make it more user-friendly;
   improving internal cooperation, coherence and communication among those Commission services dealing with market access issues;
   ensuring the participation of representatives of the business community in the MAAC;
   developing structured guidelines for priorities, including which markets, sectors and barriers should be focused on;
   strengthening its position in international standardisation bodies, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO);

Market access initiatives in third countries

24.  Calls for more structured coordination between the Commission and the Member States in third countries, which would enable a more efficient use to be made of diplomatic and governmental resources dealing with market access issues;

25.  Stresses the need for an unambiguous and ambitious mandate to be given to Commission delegations and to the newly created Market Access Teams located in third countries; reiterates that the market access strategy will be successful only if Member States are ready to contribute with their own resources, both human and financial, in proportion to their means, interests and objectives;

26.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to enhance cooperation with European chambers of commerce, trade associations and Member State trade promotion agencies located in third countries, and to ensure the appropriate exchange of information between delegations, Member State embassies, other governmental foreign trade bodies and interested European business associations;

27.  Calls on the Commission to reprioritise the deployment and eventually to increase the human resources available to Commission delegations, so that more staff are available to start up and ensure the successful functioning of market access teams, in particular in key delegations such as, inter alia, Beijing, New Delhi, Moscow and Brasilia;

Sectoral issues

28.  Supports the setting-up of dedicated initiatives, within the market access strategy framework, to tackle in particular barriers in the fields of services, public procurement, investment and IPRs, customs procedures, State aid and other subsidies, and to establish rules on competition and their proper implementation in third countries;

29.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to ensure that SMEs are able to benefit consistently from the new market access initiatives; calls on the Commission to define ad hoc actions aimed at strengthening the presence of SME products in third-country markets and defending their legitimate rights vis-à-vis one-sided third-country practices;

30.  Calls on the Commission to specifically deal with all restrictions on the provision of Internet and information society services imported by European companies in third countries as part of its external trade policy and to regard all unnecessary limitations on the provision of those services as constituting trade barriers;

The multilateral approach

31.  Stresses the need to create synergies with the European Union's major trade partners (such as the United States of America, Canada and Japan) with a view to defining a common market access strategy and to paving the way to a much needed multilateral agreement on market access;

32.  Reiterates the need to further promote deeper international regulatory cooperation and approximation in order to remove wasteful duplication and reduce costs for consumers, industry and governments; calls on the Commission to promote the progressive approximation of the standards and rules of the European Union and its trading partners, both multilaterally and bilaterally;

33.  Urges the Commission to promote dedicated WTO mechanisms allowing faster consideration to address new and emerging non-tariff barriers; in this respect, the Commission should encourage other trade partners to make greater use of the notification procedures under the Agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs);

34.  Insists on maintaining a clear focus on enforcement and in ensuring compliance by third countries with their WTO obligations, by pursuing this right under the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism;

Looking ahead

35.  Takes the view that, unless justified by development concerns, the European Union should deploy its best efforts to obtain concessions from its trading partners that are proportionate to their level of development;

36.  Urges the Commission to include in the new generation FTAs and in other agreements having trade implications clear enforcement and dispute settlement provisions, especially designed to tackle behind-the-border barriers;

37.  Invites the European Union's trade partners to progressively reduce or dismantle barriers restricting market access for goods and services and instead to optimise mutual commercial opportunities on the basis of reciprocity, including through satisfactory implementation of market opening measures resulting from bilateral, regional and multilateral negotiations;

38.  Calls on the Commission to report to Parliament annually on the progress and results of the market access strategy, paying particular attention to the priorities which have been set;

o   o

39.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ C 306 E, 15.12.2006, p. 400.
(2) OJ C 313 E, 20.12.2006, p. 276.
(3) OJ C 293 E, 2.12.2006, p. 155.
(4) OJ C 308 E, 16.12.2006, p. 182.
(5) OJ C 298 E, 8.12.2006, p. 235.
(6) OJ C 233 E, 28.9.2006, p. 103.
(7) OJ C 291 E, 30.11.2006, p. 321.

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