The European Union faces persistent barriers to free trade from some of its most important partners, despite a gradual improvement in the global economy, the EU executive said in a report released.
The European Commission, which is responsible for EU trade policy, also said in its annual trade report there were risks that rising job losses around the world could fuel a new wave of protectionist policies in the second half of 2010.
“There is a risk that trade restrictive measures introduced by our partners during the crisis will become part of the trade regime even when the economy picks up speed,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement.
The annual report said almost 280 restrictive trade measures had been put in place by the 27-country bloc’s major G20 trading partners in the past 18 months.
It said few of the protectionist measures adopted by countries at the height of the economic and financial crisis in 2008, to shield them from competition, had been removed as promised by G20 states.
About 1.7 percent of EU exports had been hit by others’ protectionist moves, compared to a World Trade Organisation (WTO) estimate that such measures affect about 0.7 percent of total G20 imports.
Protectionist measures range from classic trade barriers, such as import bans or tariff increases, to “buy national” and other “behind-the-border policies”, the Commission said.
Russia, Argentina Criticized
The Commission said EU exporters faced most restrictions in Argentina and Russia, where a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan was hurting the bloc’s steel, automotive and agri-food industries.
“The creation of the customs union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, effective from January 2010, saw the consolidation of most of Russia’s duty increases introduced during the economic crisis,” it said.
EU exporters face up to 69 trade restrictive measures in Russia and 61 in Argentina, the majority of the measures disproportionately hitting the textile, steel, automotive and agricultural sectors, the report said.
Russia which is seeking the EU’s support in its bid to join the WTO, has said it will keep the high trade tariffs on goods such as cars and metals until it completes the accession process.
Russian and European Union leaders will meet on May 31 in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, to discuss several issues including trade, climate change and the global financial and economic crisis.
The report covers restrictive trading measures in over 30 EU trading partners including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, Nigeria, South Africa and the United States.
It said exporters faced 18 and 19 trade restrictive measures in the United States and China respectively, the EU’s two top trading partners. (Reuters)