Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements


14 November 2000

European Union: July 2000

The Trade Policy Review Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded its fifth review of the European Communities' trade policies on 12 and 14 July 2000. The text of the Chairperson's concluding remarks is attached as a summary of the salient points which emerged during the discussion.

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The review enables the TPRB to conduct a collective examination of the full range of trade policies and practices of each WTO member countries at regular periodic intervals to monitor significant trends and developments which may have an impact on the global trading system.

The review is based on two reports which are prepared respectively by the WTO Secretariat and the government under review and which cover all aspects of the country's trade policies, including its domestic laws and regulations, the institutional framework, bilateral, regional and other preferential agreements, the wider economic needs and the external environment. A record of the discussion and the Chairperson's summing-up together with these two reports will be published in due course at the complete trade policy review of the European Communities and will be available from the WTO Secretariat, Centre William Rappard, 154 rue de Lausanne, 1211 Geneva 21.

Since December 1989, the following reports have been completed: Argentina (1992 and 1999), Australia (1989, 1994 and 1998), Austria (1992), Bahrain (2000) Bangladesh (1992 and 2000), Benin (1997), Bolivia (1993 and 1999), Botswana (1998), Brazil (1992, 1996 and 2000), Burkina Faso (1998), Cameroon (1995), Canada (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1998), Chile (1991 and 1997), Colombia (1990 and 1996), Costa Rica (1995), C˘te d’Ivoire (1995), Cyprus (1997), the Czech Republic (1996), the Dominican Republic (1996), Egypt (1992 and 1999), El Salvador (1996), the European Communities (1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2.000), Fiji (1997), Finland (1992), Ghana (1992), Guinea (1999), Hong Kong (1990, 1994 and 1998), Hungary (1991 and 1998), Iceland (1994 and 2000), India (1993 and 1998), Indonesia (1991, 1994 and 1998), Israel (1994 and 1999), Jamaica (1998), Japan (1990, 1992, 1995 and 1998), Kenya (1993 and 2000), Korea, Rep. of (1992, 1996 and 2000), Lesotho (1998), Macau (1994), Malaysia (1993 and 1997), Mali (1998), Mauritius (1995), Mexico (1993 and 1997), Morocco (1989 and 1996), New Zealand (1990 and 1996), Namibia (1998), Nicaragua (1999), Nigeria (1991 and 1998), Norway (1991, 1996 and 2000), Pakistan (1995), Papua New Guinea (1999), Paraguay (1997), Peru (1994 and 2000), the Philippines (1993), Poland (1993 and 2000), Romania (1992 and 1999), Senegal (1994), Singapore (1992, 1996 and 2000), Slovak Republic (1995), the Solomon Islands (1998), South Africa (1993 and 1998), Sri Lanka(1995), Swaziland (1998), Sweden (1990 and 1994), Switzerland (1991 and 1996), Tanzania (2000), Thailand (1991, 1995 and 1999), Togo (1999), Trinidad and Tobago (1998), Tunisia (1994), Turkey (1994 and 1998), the United States (1989, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1999), Uganda (1995), Uruguay (1992 and 1998), Venezuela (1996), Zambia (1996) and Zimbabwe (1994).


We have had very informative discussions on the trade policy regime of the European Union. I am pleased to note the large number of delegations – representing developed and developing countries, including least-developed - that submitted questions and made statements to assist the process of review, drawing on the extensive documentation prepared for the exercise. I also thank the Commission for its statements and the efforts it made to provide detailed answers to the many questions it received, some on short notice. This very high level of participation has permitted a comprehensive collective review of the trade policy regime of the European Union, which we know to be a market of key interest to all our Members. Synthesising this vast body of commentary is no easy task, but several key elements emerge to which I will draw your attention in my remarks.

We all agree that the improving economic environment in the Community is of great importance to the WTO membership. Many developing country delegations noted the singular importance of the EU as a destination market for their exports. We also heard from a number of delegations the importance they attach to the health of a market where their enterprises have located to manufacture goods or supply services to EU consumers. There was a consensus that the recovery of economic activity had been assisted by the deeper integration of the Single Market, brought about by the advent of the euro and further deregulation, in particular of service sectors. The EU was encouraged to make further progress towards the Single Market, including by reducing non-transposed directives, which would make a contribution to sustaining the EU's growth in the future.

There was also a wide appreciation of the leading role of the EU in the WTO. The EU was commended on the generally broad scope of its commitments and the attention it gives to its notification obligations. On dispute settlement however the EU was urged to speedily resolve the outstanding implementation problems in the bananas and hormones cases. We also heard divergent views on the EU's multi-faceted approach to trade policy, combining multilateral with regional and bilateral initiatives. There was in particular interest on the nature of the commitments exchanged on agricultural products and services in the recently concluded agreements with South Africa and Mexico, as well as a number of comments on the Partnership Agreement of Cotonou. It was noted that the EU imports on an MFN basis only from eight WTO Members; may I add that the EU's own exports benefit from MFN treatment in the markets of WTO Members except for the 17 non-EU Members with which free trade or customs unions are in place. There is no better testimony to the EU's commercial interest in the bedrock principle of MFN.

We also heard comments on the planned enlargement of the Community to countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Members are following the Intergovernmental Conference with interest, in particular with regard to the competencies of the Community and of the Member States over policies in trade-related areas, which directly affects the modus operandi of the EU in the WTO. And a number of Members that are exporters of agricultural products have a keen interest in further progress on Agenda 2000, beyond the agreement reached last year in Berlin, to reconcile the operation of the Common Agricultural Policy with the advent of new members. In the period ahead, leading up to accession, third counties hoped the candidate countries would maintain open markets and avoid the adoption of policies – whether in agriculture, other products or service sectors – that adversely impact on their conditions of market access. Finally, upon accession itself, the need to minimize trade diversion was underscored.

It is also fair to say that, while Members appreciate the generally open character of the EU market, there remain a number of specific concerns regarding the conditions of access to the EU market. The EU received a number of comments on the above average tariffs and quotas in the textiles and clothing sectors. The disappointing pace of integration of the sector under the first and second phases of integration under the ATC was mentioned. Hope was expressed that the EU would do more to lift restrictions in the third phase. The operation of the CAP was also of concern, both in terms of limiting market access on the Community market and the spill-over effects on world markets of the heavy use of export subsidies. Concerns were raised with respect to the complexity and protective effects of the import regime for agricultural products. The operation of the Community's anti-dumping and anti-subsidy instruments was also of concern, including the rising incidence of such measures and their effect on exports of developing countries. There were a number of remarks to the effect that technical regulations and standards, as well as SPS measures, and conformity assessment procedures, had become a more significant aspect of market access, in some instances a barrier, and that policies to ensure a higher level of food safety in the EU might develop in the same direction.

With respect to market access on services, several delegations indicated their interest in better conditions of access for natural persons, both in terms of making existing GATS commitments on temporary movement of business persons more effective, as well as broadening the scope of the EU's commitments on such movement. The EU also received a number of questions on its plans for regulatory harmonization in the sectors of financial services, telecommunications and transportation. And a number of Members have views on the policies the EU is elaborating on electronic commerce. With respect to the protection of intellectual property rights, there was considerable interest among the membership on plans to develop a Community-wide framework on patent rights.

I should also like to draw your attention to the stimulating discussion we had on the future of our organization, a process in which the EU is playing a key role. We heard from the Commission that the EU advocates a wider scope for the remit of the WTO, encompassing investment, competition policy, environment and dialogue on issues of social concern. The EU also advocates a more open and transparent institution. These changes, the EU argues, will better enable the organization to harness the process of globalization and make it work for the citizens of its Members.

On some of these points, however, I noted divergent views. Several delegations urged the EU to focus its attention on the negotiations on the built-in agenda, rather than await the outcome of consensus-building on a new round. On agriculture, we heard support from some quarters for the EU's approach of multifunctionality, while other delegations favoured an exclusively market-oriented agricultural policy. A number of delegations firmly rejected integrating a social dimension — or indeed non-trade concerns more broadly — in the conduct of trade policy, whether in the WTO or through the GSP.

We also heard from the Commission that another component of the EU's vision of the future of the WTO is a better integration of developing countries into the MTS, by devoting resources to technical assistance and capacity-building, and enacting market-opening initiatives for the least-developed among them. In this respect some delegations urged upon the EU on the need for duty-free quota-free access for all products originating in LDCs. I detected a wide appreciation for the EU's support for a WTO that is more inclusive of developing countries, to assist their integration into the world economy, and facilitate their development.