On February 18, 2021, the European Commission (the Commission) published its Communication on an Open, Sustainable and Assertive Trade Policy which we previously analyzed in our blog post. Below, we look into the Communication’s Annex on Reforming the WTO: Towards a Sustainable and Effective Multilateral Trading System.

The Commission in its Trade Policy Review listed reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a clear European Union (EU) priority. The Commission notes in the Annex that “Not only is trade vital for our economy; promoting rules-based international cooperation is the very essence of the European project. The EU must therefore play a leading role in creating momentum for meaningful WTO reform.”  Achieving this goal clearly will require engagement with other WTO members. In particular, the Commission calls on the United States’ support to unblock the current Appellate Body impasse and to cooperate closely on reforming all aspects of the WTO.  The Commission will also organize consultations with China and India to better align their WTO commitments with the size of their respective economies.


Continue Reading The EU’s Approach to Reforming the WTO Towards a Sustainable and Effective Multilateral Trading System

As the Biden Administration settles into its second month in office some signals have emerged that have offered insights into the potential direction of US trade policy. Key trade officials, including United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, have testified before the Senate as part of their confirmation processes.  The testimonies and responses of both nominees, in combination with the recently released USTR “2021 Presidential Trade Policy Agenda” report, have provided an early blueprint of the President Biden Administration’s position on current trade issues — including USMCA, potential free-trade agreements, US policy towards China, and the climate agenda – and possible new directions.

The international community has been watching these early indicators closely in order to gauge the likely track of US trade policy.   Professionals from Steptoe’s trade group who practice in major jurisdictions around the world weigh in with their take on how those jurisdictions are reacting to these early signals from the US.


Continue Reading International Responses to President Biden’s Trade Policy Positions

The European Commission published its Communication on An Open, Sustainable and Assertive Trade Policy on 18 February 2021 (the Communication). This follows a consultation on the EU’s Trade Policy Review which closed in November 2020.

The Communication seeks to reset the course of the EU’s trade policy in the context of global uncertainty and increased competition. Its key theme is “open strategic autonomy”, a concept characterized by three main elements:

1) furthering openness and engagement by making strategic use of the size and attractiveness of the EU Single Market;

2) enhancing the resilience and sustainability of value chains. The Commission in this regard seeks as a priority to identify strategic dependencies in supply chains, also to be addressed by industrial policy reviews; and

3) demonstrating assertiveness and encouraging rules-based cooperation in the implementation of EU trade policy to further support the EU’s geopolitical interests.

In line with its overarching objective of open strategic autonomy, the Communication suggests that the EU’s trade policy will focus on three core priorities:

  1. support the recovery from the pandemic and the fundamental transformation of the EU economy in line with its green and digital objectives;
  2. shape global rules for a more sustainable and fairer globalization; and
  3. increase the EU’s capacity to pursue its interests and enforce its rights, including autonomously where needed. In this regard, the EU will seek appropriate means to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of provisions on sustainable development in EU trade agreements, to level-up social, labor and environmental standards globally, but also to defend itself against unfair trading practices.


Continue Reading The European Commission’s Communication on an Open, Sustainable and Assertive Trade Policy

Since 1 January 2021, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North Ireland (the UK) has ceased to be part of the Single Market of the European Union (EU).[1]  This date marked the end of the transition period provided for under the Withdrawal Agreement of 31 January 2020 between the UK and the EU.[2] During the transition period, the UK remained in the EU customs territory and thus continued to be integrated into EU trade policy and enforcement actions, including trade remedies. The UK’s departure from the EU at the start of 2021 will have multiple consequences for EU trade remedy investigations and for the EU’s approach to trade remedy measures more generally going forward.

In light of these changes, the EU published a notice on 18 January 2021, laying down some of the practical implications of the UK’s departure.[3]

One immediate consequence of UK’s exit from the EU customs territory is that all trade remedy measures (anti-dumping, countervailing and safeguards) in force on 1 January 2021 will apply going forward only to imports into the 27 member states of the EU from third party States. This will include EU imports of UK originating steel products that are subject to EU steel safeguard measures.[4] Likewise, any new trade remedy measures the EU may adopt after 1 January 2021 following an investigation initiated before or after that date will only affect imports into the EU-27, i.e. excluding the UK.

One complication is imports into Northern Ireland.  Pursuant to Part Three of the Withdrawal Agreement, though theoretically no long part of customs territory of the EU, after 1 January 2021, Northern Ireland will continue to be subject to EU customs procedures and rules, in order to maintain borderless trade flows on the island of Ireland.  EU trade remedy measures will therefore be applicable to goods entering Northern Ireland from outside the EU unless it can be proven that their final sales destination of sales is Northern Ireland. This includes goods entering into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, subject to any future amendments to the rules. The EU will soon make available a separate notice concerning the technical details in this respect.


Continue Reading Practical Implications of Brexit to EU Trade Remedy Investigations and Measures

On 30 December 2020, the European Union and the United Kingdom signed the “EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement” (EU-UK TCA or the Agreement) setting out the terms for their future economic and commercial relations after the UK definitively leaves the EU Single Market and Customs Union on January 1, 2021.

The British Parliament approved the deal by a large majority on the same day. The EU will provisionally apply the Agreement until the European Parliament delivers its approval sometime in February or March.

The Agreement comes after a year of fractious and often acrimonious negotiations. Unsurprisingly, given the context and the premises for the negotiations set down by the UK from the start, the deal is more a divorce agreement than a springboard for closer economic ties.

The latter ambition would be typical in any other trade negotiation: the usual point of trade deals is to facilitate greater fluidity of exchange, and therefore greater economic integration, between two hitherto relatively separate economic spaces.

Yet here, the parties took as a starting point 45 years of deep economic, legal and social integration between the UK and the rest of the EU. Political events in the UK having precipitated its withdrawal from the EU, the EU-UK TCA is the trade equivalent of a separation agreement between an old married couple. The legacy of economic, social and security arrangements going back decades dictate that the “leaving” party cannot make an entirely clean break with its former partner. For its part, the other party seeks to protect its interests, including putting in place mechanisms to manage relations with  its former partner going forward. All of these elements are reflected in the terms of this Great Divorce. And, as is typical of divorce, the immediate effect is likely to leave both parties worse off.


Continue Reading The Brexit Agreement: the Great Divorce

The European Commission (EC) on Thursday 17 December issued long-anticipated proposals for new digital technology regulation in the European Union (EU): the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Once formally adopted as EU Regulations, these proposals will set a new benchmark for regulating internet platform services. Given their international reach and

In today’s MLex, Steptoe Senior Counselor and former EU Ambassador to the United States David O’Sullivan provided some thoughts on how to make progress on U.S.-EU agricultural issues to repair the bilateral trade relationship.


Ditch food-safety hangups to get trade deal with Biden, former EU ambassador to US says

19 Nov 20 | 17:45 GMT
Author: Joanna Sopinska

In Brief
The EU should be ready to offer some concessions on agriculture to US President-elect Joe Biden to de-escalate trade tensions and rebuild the trans-Atlantic relationship, a former EU ambassador to the US has said. This would require EU countries to put aside “all the old” disagreements on “chlorinated chicken, hormone beef and GMOs” and look instead for “things where there could be a bit of movement on both sides,” David O’Sullivan said.


Continue Reading Overcoming Obstacles to US-EU Agricultural Trade

In early October, the European Commission launched “Access2Markets”, a web-based portal designed to provide practical information, tips and guidance to companies involved in import and export activities relating to the European Union (EU). This new online portal is set up in response to requests from stakeholders, in particular small and medium enterprises, for simplified and free access to guidance about customs and regulatory conditions for goods entering the EU from third countries, and about the equivalent conditions in third countries for goods originating from the EU.

The Access2Markets portal offers a single information point for useful information relevant to trading activities. It groups together information and guidance previously scattered in separate databases and tools, such as the Market Access Database, Trade Helpdesk, TARIC – EU Customs Tariff, and List rules concerning non-preferential origin. It also simplifies the complex set of EU-relevant import and export rules set out in the network of trade agreements the EU has entered into with over 70 countries and regions over the past 40 years. The new data pool covers a full spectrum of international trade-related topics encompassing information about tariffs (including both nomenclature and explanatory notes used for classification), applicable taxes at both the national and regional levels, rules of preferential and non-preferential origin, product requirements (e.g., labelling and marking), customs procedures and formalities, VAT/excise duties/sales taxes, non-tariff trade barriers in third countries, and trade statistics by individual good and country.
Continue Reading The EC Launches an Online Tool to Facilitate an Understanding of International Trade Rules