Accessing markets outside the EU is crucial for jobs and growth within the EU. The EU works to keep markets open and to keep trade flowing through a variety of specific trade policies.
Why is it relevant?
- An open and fair international trading system is one of the foundations of Europe's competitiveness.
- Addressing barriers to EU exports in other countries accounts for the bulk of the potential to improve the competitive position of the EU industry. Its leading trading partners are less open than the EU; sometimes significantly so.
- The EU stands to gain from the further opening of markets worldwide.
- When tariff or non-tariff barriers block the flow of primary goods into Europe or the access of European companies to markets outside Europe, Europe's competitiveness suffers.
- When anti-competitive practices distort or undermine resulting trade, Europe's competitiveness suffers.
- Europe's market must be open to supplies of intermediary goods and raw materials for European producers of value-added products. Restricting this flow of goods raises costs for European companies, making them less competitive: the EU needs to import to export.
- The EU has consistently removed these barriers to its own economy and now has one of the most open markets in the world.
Share of world trade for goods
Share of world trade for services
Source: Eurostat, WTO
EU trade policy to access markets
The EU works to open new markets for its exporters and to improve the terms of trade around the world through a variety of sectoral policies:
- The EU aims to reduce the barriers to the flow of goods and services in the EU's export markets. The market access strategy designed to target and remove individual barriers in key export markets. This involves negotiating the removal of tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers such as technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosantiary measures.
- The EU wants to access government procurement markets around the world on fair terms.
- The EU aims to ensure the right balance on intellectual property protection for the EU's innovative output.
- The EU is developing its rules on investment, which is central to the ability of EU companies to operate effectively in other markets.
- The EU defends the functioning of the EU market against unfair distortions, such as dumping or subsidies.
- The EU takes action when international trade rules are violated either through bilateral dispute settlement provisions, WTO-specific dispute settlement procedures or through specific investment dispute provisions.
Fight against protectionism
The EU’s eleventh report on potentially trade-restrictive measures identified 170 new potential barriers in a 12-months period, whereas only 12 were removed. Since 2016 this 'Protectionism report' is merged with the 'Trade and investment barriers report'. This new report was adopted for the first time on 20 June 2016 together with a staff working document and a detailed list of trade-restrictive measures adopted since 2008 (overview of potentially trade-restrictive measures December 2015). The report identified 201 new potential barriers over an 18-months period, with only 16 existing restrictive measures withdrawn. It also provides an overview of the main trade barriers in place in some of the EU's key economic partners (in particular Mercosur, China, India, Japan, Russia and the United States) and describes the Commission's strategy to address these trade barriers.
The way forward
The EU annually publishes a trade and investment barriers report, which describes the progress achieved in dismantling barriers to the markets of the EU's six strategic economic partners - China, India, Japan, Mercosur (Brazil/Argentina), Russia and the US.
The fourth Trade and Investment Barriers Report recognizes some success stories in the removal of certain trade barriers but also underlines the overall persistence of barriers for European business to access the markets of our strategic partners.
More on accessing markets
- The European Commission works in close cooperation with Member States and business through the Market Access Strategy to make sure that trade opportunities created through multilateral and bilateral negotiations are translated into real market access for European exporters.
- EU goods and services are traded around the world and their trade can be affected by various aspects of trade policy
- Key information for businesses exporting out or importing into the EU