Tariff quotas approved on the basis of Article 26 of the EC Treaty constitute an exception to the normal state of affairs since they permit, during the period of validity of the measure and for a limited quantity, the total (total suspension) or partial waiver (partial suspension) of the normal duties applicable to imported goods (antidumping duties are not affected by these suspensions).
In the framework of several agreements that the European Community has concluded with third countries, as well as in the framework of autonomous preferential arrangements for some beneficiary countries, tariff concessions are provided for a pre-determined volume of goods. These tariff concessions are called "preferential tariff quotas".
Within these preferential tariff quotas, a predetermined volume of goods originating in a specified country can benefit at import into the Community from a more favourable rate of duty than the normal third countries duty mentioned in the combined nomenclature. Entitlement to benefit from preferential tariff quotas is of course subject to presentation of the necessary evidence of origin.
As stated already for suspensions, for some economic sectors, it is necessary to stimulate competition by low tariffs, as we find in numerous industrial sectors.
Their role is to stimulate economic activity of Community industries, improving competitive capacity, creating employment, modernising structures etc.
They are normally granted to raw materials, semi-finished goods or components not available in the EU (suspensions) or which are available but in insufficient quantities (tariff quotas), but no tariff quotas are granted for finished products.
A request to open an autonomous tariff quota may be presented as such or result from the examination of a suspension request. In this connection, account will be taken, where appropriate, of consequential damage to any new production and of any manufacturing capacity, which could be made available in the Community or in a third country with preferential tariff arrangements.
When identical, equivalent or substitute products are manufactured in sufficient quantities within the EU or by producers in a third country with preferential tariff arrangements, the granting of a quota is normally excluded. The same applies where the measure could result in a distortion of competition in respect of the final products.
Council Regulation 2505/96 (tariff quotas) establishes the list of goods subject to these measures. It is regularly amended (in January and July each year) to take into consideration new requests presented by the Member States.
More information and forms can be found in the Commission Communication concerning autonomous tariff suspensions and quotas (Official Journal C 128 of 25/04/1998, p. 2) and in Council Regulation 7/2010 and its last amendment (Regulation (EU) No 1231/2012, Official Journal L 350 of 20/12/2012, p. 1).
Most tariff quotas are managed by the Commission's Directorate-General responsible for Taxation and Customs Union on a 'first-come first-served' basis irrespective of where the goods are imported into the EU. The legal provisions governing the management of these tariff quotas are contained in Articles 308a to 308c of Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93 laying down provisions for the implementation of the Community Customs Code.
Information about the current balances of those tariff quotas which are managed on a first-come first-served basis is available on-line.
Some tariff quotas are managed by the Commission's Directorate-General responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development through a system of import licences. Various Council and Commission Regulations contain the specific provisions for the management of these tariff quotas.