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MEPs give green light to stronger EU powers in trade disputes

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MEPs give green light to stronger EU powers in trade disputes

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(STRASBOURG) - The European Parliament adopted Tuesday a set of new rules which will allow the EU to use countermeasures against those who violate trade rules while blocking dispute settlements.

With the World Trade Organization's Appellate Body no longer able to fulfil its function as last-instance dispute arbiter due to excess vacancies, the EU has been left without the means to enforce trade rules when cases are blocked in the WTO process. The new rules are part of efforts to have better EU tools to promote compliance and enforce EU trade agreements in an altered geopolitical context.

The strengthening of the so-called enforcement regulation allows the EU to protect its trade interests against partners acting illegally. From now on, the EU can introduce countermeasures when it obtains a favourable ruling from a dispute settlement panel of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or in bilateral and regional agreements, when the other party fails to cooperate on the adjudication of the dispute.

MEPs succeeded in widening the scope of the regulation from disputes on goods to those involving services and certain intellectual property rights, including European trademarks, designs and geographical indications. They stress that these account for a large and growing share of world trade and are covered by international trade agreements.

Parliament also ensured that the Commission would examine breaches that negatively affect workers or the environment in a trade context with the same attention as breaches of market access. Enforcement measures will apply in this field as soon as trade agreements permit.

Parliament has insisted on an instrument to allow the EU to deter and counteract other countries trying to force policy choices on the EU. The Commission agreed to present legislation no later than the end of 2021, and member states committed to take up the issue.

After Parliament, Council will now formally adopt the revised regulation, which will then be published in the Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later.

Further information, European Parliament

Adopted text (19.01.2021)

Legislative procedure and further documents

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