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The European Union manages its trade and investment relations with non-EU countries through its trade and investment policy.

Trade Outside the EU is the EU’s exclusive responsibility

Trade policy is the exclusive responsibility of the EU. This means that EU institutions draft regulations on trade matters, and negotiate and conclude international trade agreements. Member States are involved in drafting regulations and in the process of negotiating trade agreements in the working bodies of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission. They are the link between the business sector and European Union institutions.

Trade policy covers the following:

  • trade in goods and services,
  • commercial aspects of intellectual property,
  • public procurements,
  • foreign direct investment.

Through an active trade policy, we strive for the international competitiveness of companies, creating opportunities for open and fair trade, and ensuring sustainable development and representing the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Multilateral Agenda and Activities of the European Union within the World Trade Organization 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organisation designed to guarantee a rules-based international trading system. The World Trade Organization is a forum for multilateral negotiations to reduce barriers to trade; it is a system of rules governing international trade, resolving trade disputes between its members and overseeing members' trade policies. Both the European Union and its individual Member States are members of the World Trade Organization. 

Trade and Investment Agreements, Bilateral Agenda

The European Union has concluded or is negotiating trade or investment agreements with many countries and groups of countries around the world. The EU is firmly committed to promoting open and fair trade with all trading partners.

Investment Policy of the European Union

Companies or individuals invest in another country, either in raw materials or components, in order to produce in cost-effective locations or locations with a lot of knowledge, or to get closer to their customers. Since 2009, foreign direct investment policies have been addressed at the EU level on behalf of the Member States of the European Union. Investment policy includes the negotiation of investment agreements, the reform of investment disputes, the framework for the review of foreign direct investment, and the European Union's participation in international organisations and the co-creation of international standards.

Autonomous Tariff Suspensions or Quotas

The purpose of tariff suspensions is to enable EU companies to be supplied with raw materials, semi-finished products or components which are not produced in the EU or are not produced in sufficient quantities, free of import duties.

Generalised System of Preferences

The European Union's Generalised System of Preferences was instituted in 1971 on the basis of a resolution of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It allows exporters from developing countries to be partially or completely exempt from import duties on the European Union market, which encourages economic development and the eradication of poverty in those countries.

Trade Defence Instruments

The European Union implements trade defence instruments, namely anti-dumping, anti-subsidy, compensatory or safeguarding measures to defend its producers against unfair trade practices. The use of trade defence instruments in the European Union is based on the rules of the World Trade Organization. In doing so, the EU makes sure that procedures are followed rigorously and take all EU interests into account. 

Trade Barriers in the Access to Markets outside the European Union

The European Commission has set up structures for cooperation with Member States and companies to identify and remove barriers to trade that companies face in markets outside the European Union.

Cooperation between the European Commission, Member States and businesses takes place both in Brussels and locally in third markets between European Union delegations, Member States' embassies and business representations.

Insurance and Financing of International Commercial Transactions, or Export Credits

The Agreement on Officially Supported Export Credits concluded between Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States provides a framework for the orderly use of officially supported export credits by fostering a level playing field in order to encourage competition among exporters, based on quality and prices of goods and services exported rather than on the most favourable officially supported export credits.