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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

Take 2 minutes to watch the video introduction!

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 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