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Accessing markets

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.

The EU's Market Access Strategy

Free trade can only exist when businesses can actually access their markets.

Being a promoter of open trade, the European Union wants to ensure that access to markets is facilitated for all.

Market Access

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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 goods %
Year EU China United States Japan
2006 17.2 9.6 16.0 6.7
2007 17.4 10.3 15.0 6.3
2008 17.2 10.3 13.9 6.2
2009 16.9 11.5 13.8 5.9
2010 15.8 12.3 13.5 6.1
2011 15.7 12.5 12.9 5.8
2012 15.0 13.0 13.0 5.7
2013 15.0 13.7 12.9 5.1

Share of world trade for services

Share of world trade for services %
Year EU China United States Japan
2006 25.5 4.8 17.7 6.2
2007 25.9 5.2 16.8 5.7
2008 25.7 5.5 16.2 5.7
2009 25.7 5.7 16.9 5.4
2010 23.8 6.3 16.3 5.2
2011 23.7 6.5 15.8 4.9
2012 22.5 7.1 15.9 4.8
2013 22.7 7.7 15.8 4.4

Source: Eurostat, WTO

Do you want to export worldwide?

Do you want to export worldwide?

The Market Access Database is an interactive, free online service where EU companies can find information on import conditions for more than 100 countries.

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:

Fight against protectionism

The Market Access Strategy is a pivotal part of the EU's efforts to create the best possible conditions for European firms to export around the world and to ensure an effective enforcement of international trade rules. The seventh edition of the annual Trade and Investment Barriers Report ("TIBR"), published on 26 June 2017, analyses concrete trade and investment barriers reported directly by business and Member States to the Commission through the Market Access Partnership.

The report reveals that 372 such barriers were in place at the end of 2016 in over 50 trade destinations across the world. In 2016 alone, European exporters reported 36 new obstacles that could affect EU exports that are currently worth around €27 billon. G20 members figure prominently among countries having created the highest number of import obstacles. Russia, Brazil, China and India top the list. Most of the new protectionist measures reported in 2016 appeared also in Russia and India, followed by Switzerland, China, Algeria and Egypt.

The Commission strongly defends European businesses against rising protectionist tendencies and its efforts brought tangible results in 2016. The Commission succeeded in removing as many as 20 different obstacles affecting European exports worth €4.2 billion, mainly in South Korea, China, Israel and Ukraine. The food and drink (such as canned peaches or wine and spirits), automotive and cosmetics sectors are those who benefited the most from the recent EU action.

All this was made possible thanks to the effective cooperation between the Commission, EU Member States and European business representatives through the EU Market Access Strategy and improved relations with trading partners under the recent EU's trade agreements.

More on accessing markets