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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.

Prospects for EU-Asia connectivity: The 'European way to connectivity'

06-04-2021

Asia matters to Europe: home to the world's largest population and fastest-growing economies, Asia is a major trade partner of the EU. Recognising this, the EU has promoted the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), established five strategic partnerships – including with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – and negotiated or concluded free trade agreements with several Asian countries. In September 2018, the EU adopted a joint communication on 'Connecting Europe and Asia – Building blocks ...

Asia matters to Europe: home to the world's largest population and fastest-growing economies, Asia is a major trade partner of the EU. Recognising this, the EU has promoted the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), established five strategic partnerships – including with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – and negotiated or concluded free trade agreements with several Asian countries. In September 2018, the EU adopted a joint communication on 'Connecting Europe and Asia – Building blocks for an EU strategy'. The strategy proposes that the EU engage with its Asian partners through a sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based approach to connectivity, exploiting existing and planned EU networks. It acknowledges the presence of a significant investment gap in connectivity and recognises the need to mobilise and strengthen cooperation with private investors, national and international institutions, and multilateral development banks. Analysts welcomed the strategy as the EU response to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This initiative has been raising concerns in the EU and in several participating countries, some of which are worried about possible 'debt traps'. Echoing these concerns, the European Parliament has warned that the 17+1 format of cooperation between China and 17 central and eastern European countries could undermine the EU's common position towards Beijing. In January 2021, MEPs called for the creation of a global EU connectivity strategy as an extension of the current EU-Asia connectivity strategy. In September 2019, the EU and Japan launched the EU-Japan Partnership on Sustainable Connectivity and Quality Infrastructure. In December 2020, the EU and ASEAN issued a joint ministerial statement on connectivity. Financing Europe-Asia connectivity is a key challenge in the years to come, together with the challenges highlighted by the coronavirus crisis. This is a revised and updated edition of a briefing from October 2018.

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.

WTO rules: Compatibility with human and labour rights

04-03-2021

Supply chains are increasingly international, but many of EU's trade partners fail to meet both the labour standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and international human rights norms. EU trade policy is designed to ensure that economic development complies with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, while upholding human rights and high labour standards. WTO rules require members to comply with a set of basic free trading principles, in particular national treatment and most-favoured ...

Supply chains are increasingly international, but many of EU's trade partners fail to meet both the labour standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and international human rights norms. EU trade policy is designed to ensure that economic development complies with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, while upholding human rights and high labour standards. WTO rules require members to comply with a set of basic free trading principles, in particular national treatment and most-favoured nation status. When a member wishes to take a trade-affecting measure that departs from WTO rules, they can justify the action on the basis of general exceptions. Whereas there is no specific provision in the WTO rules on human rights, according to case law and precedents, the general exception can sometimes allow trade-restricting measures based on human rights concerns. Yet, the open nature of WTO-rules means that members must devise trade-restrictive measures carefully, and that the dispute settlement process can involve complex legal interpretation if litigation arises. The uncertainty surrounding the compatibility between WTO rules and human and labour rights is attracting growing attention, generating calls for WTO reform. Another WTO framework that has been the subject of a long-standing debate on whether its flexibility provisions are sufficient to protect human rights and in particular the right to health is the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the debate has refocused on the need to waive some TRIPS provisions. This briefing provides an overview of complex issues relating to human rights and WTO rules. It does not argue for a specific interpretation or position, and does not attempt to bring final clarification on aspects still disputed among legal experts.

Enforcement Regulation review

13-01-2021

The blockage, since December 2019, of the Appellate Body of the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) creates legal gaps for the enforcement of international trade rules. To bridge these gaps, the European Commission proposed to broaden the scope of 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'). The European Parliament is scheduled to vote at first reading ...

The blockage, since December 2019, of the Appellate Body of the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) creates legal gaps for the enforcement of international trade rules. To bridge these gaps, the European Commission proposed to broaden the scope of 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'). The European Parliament is scheduled to vote at first reading during the January plenary session on the text agreed in trilogue with the Council.

Excluding Northern Irish imports from EU tariff rate quotas

22-12-2020

The United Kingdom (UK) withdrew from the European Union (EU) on 1 February 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2020, provides for a transition period during which the UK will remain in the EU's single market and customs union until 1 January 2021. The Withdrawal Agreement also includes a Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which states that Northern Ireland will be part of the UK's customs territory and internal market after the transition, but that goods originating ...

The United Kingdom (UK) withdrew from the European Union (EU) on 1 February 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2020, provides for a transition period during which the UK will remain in the EU's single market and customs union until 1 January 2021. The Withdrawal Agreement also includes a Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which states that Northern Ireland will be part of the UK's customs territory and internal market after the transition, but that goods originating in Northern Ireland have access to the EU without tariffs or quotas, and that EU law relating to competition and trade is applicable to Northern Ireland. While the Protocol creates obligations between the UK and the EU, and specifically allows for the free movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the EU and vice versa, it does not create obligations vis-à-vis third countries. This could lead to circumvention of the use of EU tariff rate quotas and pose a risk to the proper functioning of the EU single market and the integrity of the common commercial policy. To address these risks and provide legal clarification, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal on 14 August 2020 setting out that goods imported to Northern Ireland from non-EU countries would not benefit from the EU tariff rate quotas and other import quotas unless ultimately destined for the EU. With just a single amendment, to bring forward entry into force (but not change the date of application, 1 January 2021), corresponding to the Council's position, the European Parliament voted on the report in plenary on 25 November 2020. The regulation was then adopted by the Council at first reading, and signed by the Presidents of the two branches of the EU legislature on 16 December 2020.

EU trade policy review

22-12-2020

In June 2020, the European Commission launched an EU trade policy review that will lead to a revised strategy to be adopted early in 2021. The aim is to set a new course for trade policy in a changing global context, aligned with EU priorities and supporting recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Parliament has contributed to the process with a resolution on 26 November 2020, and will continue monitoring implementation of the new policy in 2021.

In June 2020, the European Commission launched an EU trade policy review that will lead to a revised strategy to be adopted early in 2021. The aim is to set a new course for trade policy in a changing global context, aligned with EU priorities and supporting recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Parliament has contributed to the process with a resolution on 26 November 2020, and will continue monitoring implementation of the new policy in 2021.

State of play of EU–New Zealand FTA talks

12-11-2020

Negotiations on an EU free trade agreement (FTA) with New Zealand, one of the fastest-growing developed economies in the world, were launched in June 2018. Eight negotiating rounds took place between July 2018 and June 2020, resulting in the closure of the Transparency Chapter of the future FTA. The next round will be scheduled with the New Zealand government following the general elections held on 17 October 2020.

Negotiations on an EU free trade agreement (FTA) with New Zealand, one of the fastest-growing developed economies in the world, were launched in June 2018. Eight negotiating rounds took place between July 2018 and June 2020, resulting in the closure of the Transparency Chapter of the future FTA. The next round will be scheduled with the New Zealand government following the general elections held on 17 October 2020.

Socio-economic effects of digital trade and artificial intelligence on EU industries including their value chains and EU imports and exports with major trade partners

11-11-2020

Artificial intelligence and new digital technologies are transforming digital trade. They facilitate the development of new business models of trade and reduce the geographical barriers of economic transactions. Such transformations are quite useful for the small and medium enterprises. Artificial intelligence is being adopted by both digital and non-digital sectors, but its adoption varies a great deal across countries, including within the EU. Data and information flow play a crucial role in digital ...

Artificial intelligence and new digital technologies are transforming digital trade. They facilitate the development of new business models of trade and reduce the geographical barriers of economic transactions. Such transformations are quite useful for the small and medium enterprises. Artificial intelligence is being adopted by both digital and non-digital sectors, but its adoption varies a great deal across countries, including within the EU. Data and information flow play a crucial role in digital trade by allowing personalization. Digital trade is not new, but it is taking new forms that are ushering a new phase of globalisation. So far digital trade mainly affected trade in goods, including through global value chains, though some service activities have already become more tradeable thanks to digital technologies. The new phase of globalisation driven by artificial intelligence and new digital technologies is likely to do for services what the previous phase did for manufacturing: to vastly increase trade between advanced and emerging economies. This prospect raises important issues for domestic policies and trade policy.

Awtur estern

Georgios PETROPOULOS, André SAPIR, Michele FINK, Niclas Frederic POITIERS, Dennis GÖRLICH.

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