Concluding remarks by the Chairperson


  • Trade Policy Review: European Union


The European Union's 15th Trade Policy Review has provided us with an important opportunity to examine and understand the developments in EU trade policies and practices since the last Review in 2020. This Review has been conducted with the active participation of the European Union's delegation, headed by H.E. Sabine Weyand, Director-General, Directorate-General for Trade, European Commission on the first day and by H.E. Joao Aguiar Machado, Permanent Representative of the European Union to the WTO on the second day. The discussions have benefited from the insightful comments provided by the discussant, H.E. Ambassador Pimchanok Pitfield, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the WTO, and from the 64 delegations' statements. We appreciate their contribution to this exercise.

Members noted that the European Union continued to be one of the world's main traders in goods and services, as well as the single largest investor abroad. There have been numerous developments in the European Union's trade, investment, and related policies during the period under review, including those in reaction to challenges due to global developments and economic shocks. The impact of EU policies on WTO Members' trade was highlighted by numerous delegations as it is the top trading partner for a reported 53 economies around the world. Members commended the EU's response to the pandemic, which was seen as promoting growth, diversification, and the sustainability of value chains. As a result, GDP growth had resumed in 2021 and had accelerated further in 2022.

It was noted that the European Union continued to hold the rules-based multilateral trading system at the centre of its trade strategy. There was strong appreciation for the European Union's highly active role in the WTO and for its leadership role across a number of areas including WTO reform, dispute settlement and the Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA). The EU's leading role on the Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs), trade and the environment, gender and women's economic empowerment, as well as its contribution to capacity‑building and technical assistance, was also appreciated. It was recognized that the EU was the largest Aid for Trade donor.

Many Members appreciated the European Union's long-standing commitment to dialogue and cooperation. This was reflected in the EU's network of 44 regional trade agreements as well as in the importance placed in developing and further strengthening relationships through Association Agreements, Partnership and Cooperation Agreements, and other types of agreements, such as air transport, digital partnership, and personal data protection agreements. Several developing countries and LDCs were appreciative of the EU's Everything but Arms (EBA) initiative, and its GSP and GSP+ schemes, which allowed favourable access to the EU market for their exports.  

A large number of Members referred in their interventions to the EU's environmental and climate policies, and those regarding digital transformation, which are cross-cutting across several WTO disciplines. While Members appreciated the broader goals of achieving climate goals and improving the environment, it was stressed that these initiatives should not result in barriers to trade. The European Green Deal, covering a number of trade initiatives, was mentioned in many interventions. Members were particularly interested in and expressed some concerns regarding the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), green taxation, and green government procurement. They emphasized that these initiatives should be carefully addressed bearing in mind their coherence with WTO rules. Some concerns were expressed with respect to the Deforestation-Free Commodities Regulation, which some Members considered could potentially have a negative impact on trade. On digitization, Members were of the view that the adoption of the Digital Strategy along with the Digital Services Act and the Digital Market Act created opportunities but also challenges regarding their implementation.

Other issues raised by Members included matters related to standards and technical regulations, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures. While it was recognized that EU rules and regulations were transparent, several Members indicated that there were improvements that could be made regarding advance notice of proposed measures and opportunities for comments and further engagement in matters relating to conformity assessment, the European Standardization Strategy, and notification of standards related to environmental initiatives. Regarding SPS measures, the change of maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticides was raised as a particular trade concern by numerous Members.

The continued development of the EU's agricultural policies through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its recent reform initiatives drew significant interest from numerous delegations. It was noted that agricultural products continued to face relatively high and complex tariffs entering EU markets as well as tariff quotas. Members recognized that the EU had eliminated export subsidies, but encouraged the EU to engage in reform of domestic support in the direction of greater market orientation and reduction of trade distortions. Other issues mentioned by Members included the Farm to Fork Strategy, the approval process for genetically engineered crops, and food security issues.

Members commended the European Union for its leadership role in achieving results on the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies and looked forward to continuing a constructive engagement on further disciplines to address overcapacity and overfishing. Members appreciated the support given by the EU to the Fisheries Fund as well as other capacity building measures in this respect.

Members noted the EU's continued and broad use of anti-dumping and countervailing duties, and safeguard measures. It was noted that the safeguard measures on steel had been in place for several years and their recent extension was of particular concern. Members enquired about the Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminium. Concerns were raised regarding the Foreign Subsidies Regulation.

Members highlighted recent developments in the EU's intellectual property regime, including the implementation of the unitary patent system and the expansion of the number of products subject to Geographical Indication protection. Members raised a number of other important issues and initiatives with an impact on trade including the Regulation of the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH); the Waste Shipment Regulation; the Anti-Coercion Instrument (ACI); the Revised Enforcement Regulation; the European Critical Raw Materials Act; the Cyber Resilience Act; the Net-Zero Industry Act; and the Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework.

The European Union demonstrated its continued commitment to the WTO and the transparency mechanism with its active engagement over the two-day meeting and its timely responses to the advance written questions. Approximately 1,600 questions were submitted before the meeting. I am hopeful that the EU delegation will consider and further reflect on these issues and on the many constructive comments that it received during the Review. Members look forward to receiving answers to any outstanding and follow-up questions within the prescribed one month deadline.




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