The European Commission has on November 16, 2020, launched a new complaints system for reporting market access barriers and breaches of Trade and Sustainable Development commitments in the EU’s trade agreements and under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences.
The new complaints system reflects the Commission’s increased efforts to strengthen the enforcement and implementation of trade agreements. It follows the Commission’s appointment in July of its first Chief Trade Enforcement Officer (CTEO) to oversee its tougher action on enforcing trade policy, as well as the Commission’s 15-point Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) Action Plan of 2018.
This Plan reflects the consensus of promoting close long-term TSD engagement, on the one hand, and of stepping up monitoring efforts – and more assertive enforcement – on the other hand. Complaints will be channelled through a new centralised Single Entry Point system in DG Trade to allow for a responsive, focussed and structured process.
Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The Commission has made enforcement a top priority, along with a sharper focus on implementing trade agreements. Under this new system, complaints relating to sustainable development commitments will be given the same level of focus and attention as market access barriers. It is a real step forward because stakeholders now will play a direct role in ensuring that EU trade policy delivers both on trade opportunities and on raising labour and environmental standards. The complaints system will be accessible to all relevant parties and businesses and Commission services will assess each complaint and take action as needed.”
The complaints procedure is open to Member States, individual companies, business/trade associations, civil society organisations and citizens from the EU. The complaint forms – one for market access barriers and one for violations of sustainable development commitments – will be accessible online for EU-based stakeholders on the ‘Access2Markets’ portal on DG TRADE’s website. Complainants will be required to provide a detailed factual description of the issue at stake and to list any actions already taken to address it. For market access issues, the complainant will need to describe the alleged barrier’s potential economic impact. For sustainable development issues, the complainant must give details of the impact and seriousness of the alleged breach.
After launching the complaint, the complainant will be informed as to whether it leads to an enforcement action. The Commission services will inform the complainant about the content of the action plan, which may identify the steps suitable for tackling the issues subject to the complaint but also indicate to the extent possible timelines of specific actions. The Commission services could also provide periodic updates on specific actions undertaken to address the issue, depending on the sensitivity and confidentiality of each of the steps undertaken.
The entry into operation of the new complaints system is accompanied, on the website of DG Trade, by a notice containing operating guidelines for the system and a notice on the broader working approaches to enforcement and implementation work of DG Trade under the CTEO.
EU action to tackle barriers facing European companies around the world has been successful, with the Commission’s work to remove barriers between 2014 and 2018 generating at least €8 billion additional exports in 2019.
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