The suspensions adopted on the basis of Article 31 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) constitute an exception to the normal state of affairs (application of normal customs duty rate) since, during the period of validity of the measure and for an unlimited quantity they permit the total (total suspension) or partial waiver (partial suspension) of the normal duties applicable to imported goods (anti-dumping duties are not affected by these suspensions).
In this context, it should be pointed out that goods imported under the suspension arrangements are in free circulation and enjoy freedom of movement throughout the European Union (EU). Furthermore, once a suspension is granted, normally any operator in any Member State is eligible to benefit from it.
This means that the granting of a suspension has consequences for all Member States, and that the sector should therefore be administered on the basis of close and extensive cooperation between the Member States and the Commission so that the latter can see to it that all Union interests are taken into consideration.
The main purpose of tariff suspensions is to enable Union enterprises to use raw materials, semi finished goods or components without being required to pay the normal duties laid down in the common customs tariff.
Suspensions are proposed after a thorough examination of the economic reasons on which the requests are based and only insofar as they seem likely to benefit the Union economy.
For some economic sectors, it is necessary to stimulate competition by low tariffs, as we find in the pharmaceutical and information technology sectors.
There are temporary or permanent duty suspensions (autonomous tariff suspensions) which role is to stimulate economic activity of Union industries, improving their competitive capacity, creating employment, modernising structures etc.
They are normally granted to
- raw materials,
- semi-finished goods or
- components not available within the EU.
But no suspensions are granted for finished products.
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 (GSP), the granting of suspension is normally excluded. The same applies where the measure could result in a distortion of competition in respect of the final products.
A list of the products currently under suspension can be found in Council Regulation (EU) No 1344/2011 (Official Journal L 349 of 31.12.2011, p.1). It is regularly amended (in January and July each year) to take into consideration new requests presented by the Member States.
The latest amendments to that regulation can be found in Council Regulations (EU)
- No 552/2012 (Official Journal L 166, 27.6.2012, page 7) and
- No 1232/2012 (Official Journal L 350, 20.12.2012, page 8).
More information concerning the general principles and guidelines as well as administrative arrangements and forms can be found in the Commission Communication concerning autonomous tariff suspensions and quotas (Official Journal C 363 of 13.12.2011, p. 6).
Goods imported with airworthiness certificates
Customs duties for import of parts, components and other goods used for aircraft are currently suspended on the basis of the conditions set up in a specific Council Regulation since 2002 (Council Regulation (EC) No 1147/2002, Official Journal L 170 of 29.06.2002, p. 8).
The measure reduces the administrative burden for companies and customs administrations by eliminating customs procedures like inward processing or end use regimes for certain imported goods used in the manufacture, repair and maintenance of aircraft.
Strengthening the industrial and market situation of European defence companies will greatly improve the EU's ability to fulfil the Petersberg tasks in the accomplishment of European Security and Defence Policy. It will also benefit collective defence by strengthening Europe's contribution to NATO.
It is in the interests of the Union as a whole that Member States are able to procure for their military forces the most technologically advanced, suitable weapons, and military equipment. In view of the rapid technological developments in this industrial sector worldwide, it is normal practice of the Member States authorities in charge of national defence to procure weapons and military materials from producers or other suppliers located in third countries. Given the security interest of the Member States it is compatible with the interests of the Union that certain of these weapons and equipment may be imported free of import duties.
As explained in Council Regulation (EC) No 150/2003 (Official Journal L 25 of 30.01.2003, p. 1), only the competent authorities of Member States are entitled to benefit from this measure.
"Taking account of the structural social and economic situation of the French overseas departments, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands, which is compounded by their remoteness, insularity, small size, difficult topography and climate, economic dependence on a few products, the permanence and combination of which severely restrain their development, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, shall adopt specific measures aimed, in particular, at laying down the conditions of application of the Treaties to those regions, including common policies…" (Art. 349 of the TFEU).
The specific measures referred take into account areas such as customs and trade policies, fiscal policy, free zones, agriculture and fisheries policies, conditions for supply of raw materials and essential consumer goods, State aids and conditions of access to structural funds and to horizontal Community programmes.
Currently the customs measures implemented in certain outermost regions to offset the handicaps affecting these regions consist of temporarily suspending autonomous Common Customs Tariff duties on imports of certain industrial products of special interest to the regions of Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands.
See in this respect:
- Council Regulation (EU) No 973/2010 of 25 October 2010 temporarily suspending the autonomous Common Customs Tariff duties on imports of certain industrial products into the autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira (Official Journal L 285, 30.10.2010, p. 4), and
- Council Regulation (EU) No 1386/2011 of 19 December 2011 temporarily suspending autonomous Common Customs Tariff duties on imports of certain industrial products into the Canary Islands (Official Journal L 345, 29.12.2011, p. 1).