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Critical raw materials in EU external policies: Improving access and raising global standards

12-05-2021

Lithium and cobalt (used in rechargeable batteries) and rare earth elements (used in wind turbines) are some of the critical raw materials (CRMs) – raw materials of critical importance – for the EU. Global demand for CRMs is rising, yet the export restrictions imposed by the resource-rich countries intensify the competition for these materials. To boost its access to CRMs, the EU has a dedicated strategy based on three pillars: two internal ones (increasing domestic sourcing and circularity) and ...

Lithium and cobalt (used in rechargeable batteries) and rare earth elements (used in wind turbines) are some of the critical raw materials (CRMs) – raw materials of critical importance – for the EU. Global demand for CRMs is rising, yet the export restrictions imposed by the resource-rich countries intensify the competition for these materials. To boost its access to CRMs, the EU has a dedicated strategy based on three pillars: two internal ones (increasing domestic sourcing and circularity) and an external one, which is mostly about securing supply from third countries. The external pillar of the EU CRMs policy is implemented across a number of other policies, mainly that on trade and development. It also involves deploying raw materials diplomacy. Through its trade policy, the EU seeks to implement its priorities by eliminating trade barriers through bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements, and safeguarding its interests through more assertive tools such as WTO dispute settlement and trade defence instruments. Through its development policy, the EU seeks to secure and diversify its access to CRMs, while promoting sustainable standards, good governance and responsible sourcing. It is also advancing its agenda through international fora (e.g. the UN and the OECD) and dialogues with numerous partners. The EU has also passed laws that help to make global supply chains and finance in the extractive sectors more transparent. In 2020, the European Commission adopted a CRMs action plan mostly based on existing strands of external action. It introduces several novel ideas, notably launching new strategic partnerships with both developed and developing nations, which are focused on extraction, processing and refining of CRMs. In its recent strategies, the EU has also clearly indicated its interest in greening the supply chains and achieving open strategic autonomy as regards CRMs. The success of these will also depend on global cooperation, adequate funding and reconciling differences with resource-rich countries.

The level playing-field for labour and environment in EU-UK relations

26-04-2021

The level playing-field (LPF) provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) constitute a key part of the agreement, and became a major source of divergence between the negotiators. LPF provisions establish rules to safeguard fair competition between the parties' businesses. A notable component are the rules on social provisions, labour, environment and climate change, often referred to as the 'trade and sustainable development' ...

The level playing-field (LPF) provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) constitute a key part of the agreement, and became a major source of divergence between the negotiators. LPF provisions establish rules to safeguard fair competition between the parties' businesses. A notable component are the rules on social provisions, labour, environment and climate change, often referred to as the 'trade and sustainable development' (TSD) chapters in other free trade agreements (FTAs). The trading relationship between the EU and the UK is fundamentally different from that with other non-EU countries since, on the one hand, EU laws were applicable to the UK until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 and, on the other, these two economies neighbour each other and are strongly interconnected. The TCA is therefore designed to maintain sufficiently 'convergent' standards to safeguard fair competition, while providing each party with the freedom to implement its own approach to social and environmental protection. To this end, the TCA requires that parties do not weaken or reduce their levels of social, labour and environmental standards as of the end of 2020 (non-regression); the EU commitments on climate change, in particular on climate neutrality by 2050, will also remain for both parties. In addition, the TCA introduces rebalancing provisions creating a mechanism whereby a party can take 'proportionate measures' in order to offset any (adverse) 'material impacts on trade or investment' resulting from 'significant divergences' between parties. It also allows either party to request a review with a view to amending the agreement, and either party can opt to terminate the trade chapters if the amendment is not satisfactory. Although the TCA LPF provisions on labour and environment are in many respects similar to those in the EU's new generation FTAs, they strengthen the enforcement of non-regression provisions by allowing for remedial measures, and also reinforce the precautionary approach. The TCA also represents a notable innovation with its rebalancing and review provisions.

India: Economic indicators and trade with EU

22-04-2021

At the beginning of the century, the EU and India were growing exactly at the same path: how about today? Who is the main trade partner of India: China or the EU? And would you ever think that the EU exports to India pearls and precious stones more than optical instruments? And how much is it easy to do business in New Delhi? Find the answers to these and many more questions in our EPRS publication on ‘India: Economic indicators and trade with EU’, part of a series of infographics produced in collaboration ...

At the beginning of the century, the EU and India were growing exactly at the same path: how about today? Who is the main trade partner of India: China or the EU? And would you ever think that the EU exports to India pearls and precious stones more than optical instruments? And how much is it easy to do business in New Delhi? Find the answers to these and many more questions in our EPRS publication on ‘India: Economic indicators and trade with EU’, part of a series of infographics produced in collaboration with the European University Institute's GlobalStat on the world's main economies. This is an updated edition of an ‘At a Glance’ note published in September 2019.

EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement

22-04-2021

During the April plenary session, the European Parliament is due to vote on giving its consent to the Council decision concluding the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. This Agreement, which has been provisionally applied since 1 January 2021, is the institutional framework, which, conditional on Parliament's consent, will govern the new EU-UK relationship. It establishes trade on zero-tariff/quota terms and covers a wide range of areas, including energy ...

During the April plenary session, the European Parliament is due to vote on giving its consent to the Council decision concluding the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. This Agreement, which has been provisionally applied since 1 January 2021, is the institutional framework, which, conditional on Parliament's consent, will govern the new EU-UK relationship. It establishes trade on zero-tariff/quota terms and covers a wide range of areas, including energy, transport and fisheries.

Policy Departments’ Monthly Highlights - April 2021

21-04-2021

The Monthly Highlights publication provides an overview, at a glance, of the on-going work of the policy departments, including a selection of the latest and forthcoming publications, and a list of future events.

The Monthly Highlights publication provides an overview, at a glance, of the on-going work of the policy departments, including a selection of the latest and forthcoming publications, and a list of future events.

International trade dispute settlement: WTO Appellate Body crisis and the multiparty interim appeal arrangement

14-04-2021

When disputes arise in international trade, they can be settled with binding rulings under international trade or investment agreements. For World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, members can launch such disputes through the two-step WTO dispute settlement mechanism. The European Union (EU) also includes similar dispute settlement provisions in its trade agreements. The United States' blockage of appointments to the WTO Appellate Body, the highest instance of the WTO dispute settlement, plunged ...

When disputes arise in international trade, they can be settled with binding rulings under international trade or investment agreements. For World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, members can launch such disputes through the two-step WTO dispute settlement mechanism. The European Union (EU) also includes similar dispute settlement provisions in its trade agreements. The United States' blockage of appointments to the WTO Appellate Body, the highest instance of the WTO dispute settlement, plunged the multilateral rules-based trading system into crisis. The US grievances include questions of delay, judicial over-reach, precedence, and transition rules. As the Appellate Body is unable to hear new appeals, no disputes can now be resolved at the highest instance, causing widespread concern in the context of escalating global trade protectionism. To find a temporary solution to the impasse, the EU and a number of trade partners set up a multiparty interim appeal arbitration arrangement (MPIA). The parties continue to seek resolution of the Appellate Body crisis, and agree to use the MPIA as a second instance as long as the situation continues. The MPIA is also open for more WTO members to join. The recently amended EU Enforcement Regulation also enables swift suspension of obligations under trade agreements while the dispute settlement mechanism is blocked. While the USA has criticised the MPIA, the US approach to multilateral cooperation may change under President Joe Biden. The European Commission Trade Policy Review of February 2021 restates the EU's commitment to WTO reform.

The EU strategic autonomy debate [What Think Tanks are thinking]

30-03-2021

An increasing number of politicians and analysts argue that the European Union should boost its ‘strategic autonomy’ and/or develop a higher degree of ‘European sovereignty’. These concepts encompass a greater potential for independence, self-reliance and resilience in a wide range of fields – such as defence, trade, industrial policy, digital policy, economic and monetary policy, and health policy – following a series of events in recent years that have exposed Europe’s vulnerability to external ...

An increasing number of politicians and analysts argue that the European Union should boost its ‘strategic autonomy’ and/or develop a higher degree of ‘European sovereignty’. These concepts encompass a greater potential for independence, self-reliance and resilience in a wide range of fields – such as defence, trade, industrial policy, digital policy, economic and monetary policy, and health policy – following a series of events in recent years that have exposed Europe’s vulnerability to external shocks. The debate emerged in the late 2010s, after the French President, Emmanuel Macron, called for a conscious ‘European sovereignty’ and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that Europe would have to take its destiny into its own hands, as it could no longer necessarily rely on the United States to protect it. This latter statement followed President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark nuclear deal with Iran, in which the EU had invested significant political capital. In parallel, there is growing concern about the implications for Europe of the progressive hardening of positions between the US and China, on both economic and political fronts. This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from international think tanks on the European issues related to European strategic autonomy and sovereignty.

Control of exports, transfer, brokering, technical assistance and transit of dual-use items

22-03-2021

Certain goods and technologies have legitimate civilian applications but can also be used for military purposes; known as 'dual-use' goods, they are subject to the European Union's export control regime. The regime is now being revised, mainly to take account of significant technological developments, increase transparency and create a more level playing field among EU Member States. The proposal would place new limits on the export of cyber-surveillance items and strengthen human rights considerations ...

Certain goods and technologies have legitimate civilian applications but can also be used for military purposes; known as 'dual-use' goods, they are subject to the European Union's export control regime. The regime is now being revised, mainly to take account of significant technological developments, increase transparency and create a more level playing field among EU Member States. The proposal would place new limits on the export of cyber-surveillance items and strengthen human rights considerations. The European Parliament is expected to vote on the agreed text resulting from interinstitutional negotiations during the March II plenary session.

Review of EU Enforcement Regulation for trade disputes

19-03-2021

On 12 December 2019, the European Commission adopted a proposal to amend Regulation (EU) No 654/2014 concerning the exercise of the EU's rights for the application and enforcement of international trade rules ('the Enforcement Regulation') of 15 May 2014. The Enforcement Regulation enables the EU to suspend or withdraw concessions or other obligations under international trade agreements in order to respond to breaches by third countries of international trade rules that affect the EU's commercial ...

On 12 December 2019, the European Commission adopted a proposal to amend Regulation (EU) No 654/2014 concerning the exercise of the EU's rights for the application and enforcement of international trade rules ('the Enforcement Regulation') of 15 May 2014. The Enforcement Regulation enables the EU to suspend or withdraw concessions or other obligations under international trade agreements in order to respond to breaches by third countries of international trade rules that affect the EU's commercial interests. The proposed amendments were aimed at empowering the EU to impose counter-measures in situations where EU trade partners violate international trade rules and block the dispute settlement procedures included in multilateral, regional and bilateral trade agreements, thus preventing the EU from obtaining final binding rulings in its favour. - The Council adopted its negotiating position on 8 April 2020, and the Committee on International Trade (INTA) of the European Parliament adopted its position on 6 July 2020. Trilogue negotiations concluded on 28 October with a provisional agreement, which INTA endorsed on 10 November. Parliament adopted the agreed text on 19 January 2021. Following the Council's approval, the Regulation as amended entered into force on 13 February 2021. Third edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

EU Trade Policy: how can FTAs better deliver for SMEs?

08-03-2021

These briefings discuss how free trade agreements (FTAs) can help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It provides an overview of FTAs with provisions supporting SMEs internationalise. Based on a literature review, we also discuss the main challenges and concerns for SMEs doing business in third countries. First, we show the current situation of European SMEs with respect to internationalisation and highlight the corresponding benefits. Following previous literature on the topic, we distinguish ...

These briefings discuss how free trade agreements (FTAs) can help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It provides an overview of FTAs with provisions supporting SMEs internationalise. Based on a literature review, we also discuss the main challenges and concerns for SMEs doing business in third countries. First, we show the current situation of European SMEs with respect to internationalisation and highlight the corresponding benefits. Following previous literature on the topic, we distinguish between SMEs without international operations and SMEs that are already internationalised and discuss how different barriers can affect them. Finally, the last section discusses initiatives at the EU and national level to support SMEs and concludes with a set of recommendations how to better support them.

Ārējais autors

Thibo CLICTEUR, Frauke DE TEMMERMAN, Duy HUYNH-OLESEN, Katrien NUYTS, Nazareno BRAITO, Davide CECCANTI

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