Since the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Commission has exclusive responsibility for negotiating free trade agreements on behalf of the EU. The Commission, while bold in its ambitions, has at times been stymied by the complexities of the EU’s shared responsibilities with its Member States. This has led to tense situations such as the Belgian region of Wallonia refusing to ratify the Canada-EU FTA until Wallonia’s demands were met.

However, following the election of Donald Trump to the White House, the EU has had to take a bolder stand to emphasise its free trade credentials. This will soon be put to the test as the UK negotiates its departure from the EU. Another complexity of this departure will be whether the UK remains in the EU’s Customs Union, and how its departure from the Customs Union will impact free trade agreements that the EU already has in place.

Furthermore, EU support for fair trade depends on their being a level playing field between EU producers and producers of third countries. Although the EU was in the past reluctant to use trade defence instruments, nowadays the EU sees these instruments, such as anti-dumping measures and anti-subsidy duties, as one way to protect EU industry while ensuring such a level playing field. The Commission has in fact recently proposed updated trade defence measures.

The Commission has an appetite for bolder trade defence, launching for example anti-dumping investigations on an unprecedented scale, such as against Chinese solar panels.

Avisa Partners advises clients on various trade issues and the use of trade defence instruments. This includes FTAs, anti-dumping cases, and anti-subsidy cases.

Avisa also has access to key stakeholders at EU level, including key Commission officials in the Directorate-General for Trade (DG TRADE), the Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (DG TAXUD), Cabinet members of Commissioners Malmstrom (Trade) and Moscovici (Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation & Customs), Members of the European Parliament that are active in trade and customs, and Trade Attachés at the Permanent Representations of EU Member States to the EU.

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