The European Council of Ministers on April 16 gave the green light to formally adopt its position on the regulation of the EU’s trade defence instruments after having reached a political agreement with the European Parliament in December 2017.

The revised trade defence instruments are designed to be more predictable, transparent, and accessible for businesses and amend the existing legal framework for higher tariffs on dumped or subsidised imports. The move will better protect EU producers from the harm caused by unfair competition on the international market and improve the standing of Europe’s small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Council’s position was adopted by a majority of the Member States, with Ireland abstaining and only Sweden and the United Kingdom voting against the measure. The formal signing of the regulation is scheduled for late May during the European Parliament’s plenary in Strasbourg.

Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said that the formal approval of the new regulations by the Council brings Europe, “very close to having the necessary tools to more effectively tackle unfair trading practices”. She added that “the European Union stands for open and rules-based trade, but we must also ensure that others do not take advantage of our openness”.

“The adoption of these new trade defence instruments is timely, given the growing protectionist pressures and threats to the values and principles of a rules-based trading system. It is particularly important that EU has the right tools to support free and fair trade,” said the Council of Minister’s current head in the rotating presidency, Emil Karanikolov, who also serves as Bulgaria’s Minister for Trade Affairs.

According to the agreement, the measures will further increase the transparency and predictability of provisional anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures. The measure also stipulates that provisional duties are only applied after a three-week advance notification period following the publication of the measure instituted while establishing additional safety nets for storage.

All of the EU Member States will be able to subject an investigation without the formal request from the corresponding industry in the event of a threat of retaliation from third-party countries. The investigation period will be reduced to seven months, with definitive duties to be instituted within 14 months. Unions will also be allowed to file complaints with the industry and become stakeholders in the process.

The measures also allow for the imposition of higher duties when there are distortions in the market for raw materials and when the materials, including energy, individually account for more than 17% of revenue, making the adjustment of the level of rights established under the lesser duty rule possible when it is in the interest of the European Union.

Importers will be allowed to be reimbursed for duties collected in the course of an expiry review investigation when the trade defence measures are not maintained, while all social and environmental standards will be taken into account when assessing a particular project.