The European Court of Justice recently handed down its opinion regarding the European Union's competence to conclude its proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore. FTA proposals incorporating provisions on the protection of non-direct foreign investments or investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms should be treated as mixed agreements, requiring ratification from not only the European Union, but also each member state.
The European Union and Japan recently announced having reached an 'agreement in principle' on a future economic and partnership agreement. The final agreement is expected to boost EU-Japan trade by cutting red tape and scrapping duties. EU businesses importing from and exporting to Japan should prepare for the agreement's entry into force. This requires assessing the exact effect of the agreement on their operations and identifying potential opportunities and challenges.
The field of trade defence instruments (TDIs) is among the most active in international trade law and their use could further increase as a result of the current wave of protectionism. In the European Union, which frequently makes use of these instruments, TDIs are based on the global framework set out by World Trade Organisation (WTO) law and on a number of additional conditions adopted at EU level. However, the EU legal framework must comply with WTO law.
The EU General Court recently annulled the anti-dumping measures imposed on imports of threaded tube and pipe cast fittings of malleable cast iron for Jinan Meide Casting Co Ltd products. The judgment highlights deficiencies in the EU trade defence system in striking a balance between transparency and rights of defence on the one hand and the protection of confidential data on the other hand.
The European Union is unique in imposing a strict internal regime of subsidy control. The purpose of such a strict state aid regime is to limit distortions in the common market as much as possible, in order to ensure competitive neutrality. However, the same level of competitive neutrality is lacking in the rest of the world, which may place EU enterprises at a disadvantage when compared with competitors in other World Trade Organisation member states.
The European Union must make a call on whether it will grant China market economy status by the end of 2016. Granting China market economy status is likely to result in cheaper Chinese imports into the European Union. This could be detrimental to certain EU industries competing with Chinese imports, but positive for other EU industries that source intermediate goods from China.
Recent reports of the influence of major oil and gas companies on the European Commission's position on energy in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations have attracted renewed attention in the TTIP energy chapter discussions. The European Union has called for the elimination of all restrictions on energy trade, including export measures.
The Council of the European Union has recently adopted new rules with respect to the approval of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that allow member states to ban or restrict the cultivation of GMOs in their territory, even if such cultivation has been approved at EU level. Whether the new rules comply with relevant EU obligations under the World Trade Organisation remains an open question.
The European Commission has responded to public criticism about a perceived lack of transparency in negotiations between the European Union and the United States for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership by publishing a number of proposals. The release of negotiating information by both the European Union and the United States signals their desire to limit the leakage of confidential negotiating positions.
The European Union and Singapore have concluded negotiations on investment rules in their comprehensive free trade agreement, paving the way for the signing, ratification and entry into force of the agreement. The agreement must first undergo domestic ratification procedures, and the European Court of Justice's opinion has been sought regarding its competence to sign and ratify the agreement.
The European Union and Canada recently completed negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) at the Canada-EU Summit. The European Union and Canada have also concluded a strategic partnership agreement regarding foreign policy cooperation. CETA is the first EU trade agreement that includes precise and enforceable disciplines governing investor-state dispute settlements.
The European Union and Ukraine have signed the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The agreement is part of the first set of a new generation of association agreements with Eastern Partnership countries that provides for the establishment of a deep and comprehensive free trade area. However, the signing of the agreement does not mark the end of the uncertainty in trade relations between the partners.
The EU-China Joint Customs Cooperation Committee recently adopted a decision on mutual recognition of authorised economic operators. It is set to provide access to streamlined customs procedures and facilitate trade between the two trading partners. The committee also concluded a strategic framework for customs cooperation, which will facilitate trade and combat illicit and counterfeit trade.
The European Commission recently presented the fourth edition of the Trade and Investment Barriers Report, in which it reported on the progress towards eliminating trade and investment barriers in certain third countries that prevent or hinder EU companies from entering these markets. In the report, the commission noted that substantial progress has been made on a number of trade restrictive measures.
A World Trade Organisation dispute settlement panel was established at the request of the Faroe Islands, to rule over restrictions imposed by the European Union on Faroese vessels and imports of Faroese-caught mackerel and herring. This dispute is the first to be initiated by an EU member state in its own right and not by the European Union or the European Union on behalf a member state.
After months of discussions it is unclear whether the European Union and Ukraine look set to sign a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement during the third Eastern Partnership Summit. Despite threats from Russia, Ukraine appears committed to deeper economic integration with the European Union. Ukraine wishes to gain improved access to EU markets and believes it will attract more EU investment.
Only months after imposing provisional anti-dumping duties on imports of solar panels from China, the European Commission accepted a price undertaking from leading Chinese exporting producers. However, such an agreement is unlikely to be amicable and may prove unsustainable for the parties concerned in the future because of market fluctuations and new trade disputes.
The European Commission has announced that it is to seek a negotiating mandate from member states for a bilateral investment treaty between the European Union and China. While an investment agreement between the European Union and China may not add much value to their economic relations, it may provide a point of common interest to move past the growing trade war.
A World Trade Organisation compliance panel recently heard arguments from the United States that the European Union had failed to comply with the ruling against its support of the large civil aircraft sector. In EC – Large Civil Aircraft the original panel found that the European Union's support of Airbus projects must be brought into line with the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.
The Indian commerce and industry minister recently submitted a letter to the Indian Parliament to update it on the progress in negotiations with the European Union on a broad-based trade and investment agreement. The key negotiating issues of each partner reveal deep differences relating to the pharmaceutical sector, and the European Union denies that it is seeking any changes to India's IP laws.