The objectives of the EU's Common Commercial Policy are set out in Article 206 of the (formerly Article 131 of the EC Treaty). Pursuant to Article 206 of the TFEU, "[...] the Union shall contribute, in the common interest, to the harmonious development of world trade, the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade and on foreign direct investment, and the lowering of customs and other barriers." The EU has successfully used its Common Commercial Policy, a policy area which is the exclusive responsibility of the EU, to considerably reduce and eliminate the tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade cited in Art. 206 of the TFEU. Germany holds that bringing down tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade and improving market access should continue to be given priority in the EU's Common Commercial Policy.
Tariffs, which have been cut dramatically across a wide range of sectors internationally, are now impeding trade to a much lesser extent than they used to. For this reason, the focus of the EU's Common Commercial Policy has shifted towards reducing non-tariff barriers to trade, which include import quotas, requirements for import and export licences, and discriminatory requirements regarding health and safety. Academic studies have found that these restrictions are likely to cost an average of 5 to 10% of the worth of goods that are traded internationally.
German interests regarding the EU's Common Commercial Policy
The German Government endorses the renewed efforts made by the European Commission to remove non-tariff barriers to trade. It is the view of the German Government that creating a clear set of rules governing global trade and widening their scope is of essence. Among these prospective rules are agreements to take action on price-dumping and on export subsidies which distort competition on the international markets. Clear multilateral trade rules give investors, exporters and importers the transparency and predictability they need, thus improving legal certainty for companies that do business abroad and allowing them to plan. This is why the German Government is campaigning within the WTO to also get agreements on investment and competition law and on transparent public procurement rules underway. In the same vein, the German Government is committed to simplifying customs procedures (trade facilitation) and would like to see trade policy issues being dealt with in a more comprehensive way. The German Government holds that public trade policy, including at international level, should increasingly be aligned with social policy objectives such as environmental protection, public health, and consumer protection and therefore considers the fact that, for the first time, the interplay between trade and the environment has now become subject to multilateral negotiations within the Doha round to be a success.
Trade, Growth, and World Affairs - trade policy as a core component of the EU's 2020 Strategy
On 9 November 2010, the European Commission tabled its strategy on trade entitled . The strategy lays out a host of measures and initiatives designed to bring down barriers to trade and to further improve European companies' access to markets outside the EU.
The European Commission's Communication is consistent with the EU's earlier policy and is reflective of a clear commitment to opening up markets. The priorities set out in the "Global Europe" Strategy of 2006 have largely remained the same, with particular focus being given to the Doha round and its conclusion, as well as the EU's bilateral free trade initiatives, which are to complement the multilateral system.
In its Communication, the European Commission points out once again that the trade strategy will be part of the overall Europe 2020 Strategy. It also underlines the fact that the framework has changed as a result of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.
Germany welcomes the European Union's new trade strategy, which largely follows in the footsteps of the "Global Europe" Strategy. The objectives set out in this document - particularly those of opening up markets and implementing a set of dependable, global rules on trade - must now be consistently pursued. This is the only way in which German and European businesses can improve their competitive edge on growth markets outside the EU.
"Global Europe - Competing in the world"
In autumn 2006, the European Commission tabled a Communication entitled "Global Europe - Competing in the world", which set out the main objectives for the EU's future commercial policy. Most of this document was dedicated to a description of political measures that would improve European businesses' competitive edge on the international markets. Key aspects of this trade strategy were then successfully put into practice under the 2007 German EU presidency.
One of the main objectives of the Global Europe strategy is to secure better terms of access to non-EU markets. In order to achieve this, the EU must create a framework that allows European businesses to become more competitive internationally; if necessary by balancing out some of the competitive disadvantages that exist vis-à-vis other countries. This means having a clear focus on the conclusion of the Doha round as well as pressing ahead with the implementation of the EU's bilateral free trade initiatives, which are to complement the multilateral trading system. Another important building block of the Global Europe strategy has already been put in place: the new EU Market Access Strategy has laid the basis for more efficient action to eliminate trade barriers that hamper trade with non-EU countries.
Yet another crucial aspect in the debate on how to strengthen Europe's competitiveness is the question of how to guarantee a secure supply of raw materials. In recent years, we have seen some third countries distorting trade and competition and thereby aggravating the situation on the global commodities markets. There is full agreement among EU member states that this is an issue of particular importance for Europe's competitiveness. They now want to work with the European Commission and the private sector to create instruments (to be used in our multilateral and bilateral trading relations) that will safeguard a secure supply of raw materials for Europe.
Implementation of these instruments and the issue at large will continue to feature high up on Europe's commercial policy agenda.