Tuesday

5th Mar 2024

Brussels wants to halve recipients of EU trade benefits

The European Commission has published proposals to slash the number of countries benefiting from preferential EU trade concessions in half, prompting a quick reaction from certain states likely to suffer repercussions.

Announcing the plans in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening (10 May), EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said cutting the number of states which benefit from the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme from 176 to around 80 would help target the trade support measures towards countries most in need.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • "This is not protectionism," insisted De Gucht (Photo: European Parliament)

Current GSP members pay reduced or zero duties on exports to the EU worth roughly €60 billion a year, equivalent to just under 4 percent of the Union's imports.

De Gucht hailed the advances made by "higher or upper-middle income countries" such as Russia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia or Qatar in recent years, saying the world was a changed place from 1970 when the GSP was devised.

"Their income is similar or even higher than that of some EU member states. So we thought that trade preferences did not make that much sense anymore," the former deputy prime minister of Belgium told journalists.

A final list of countries to be stripped of their current privileges will only be produced immediately prior to enforcement, based on World Bank criteria from the previous three years, the commission said.

Brazil rejected the notion that the world's poorest states would benefit from the move however, with the Latin American giant among middle-income countries likely to lose out if EU member states and the European Parliament accept the proposals.

"The profile of Brazil's exports under the GSP does not match the profile of the least developed countries' (LDCs)," Brazilian ambassador to the EU Ricardo Neiva Tavares told EUobserver.

"The withdrawal of Brazil from the GSP in itself will not bring any advantage to LDCs, [instead] preserving the benefit for some other major emerging economies."

Brazilian jobs in labour-intensive sectors like footwear would suffer, while European producers and consumers could face increased costs, added Neiva Tavares.

De Gucht also presented plans to widen the EU's GDP-plus scheme, a more far-reaching system of trade concessions which the EU grants to poorer countries in return for democracy and human rights commitments.

EU nations decided to suspend Sri Lanka's GSP-plus status in February last year, following allegations of human rights abuses by government forces during Colombo's struggle with Tamil rebels.

Also on Tuesday, MEPs sitting in plenary in Strasbourg approved a separate commission proposal to grant duty-free access to 75 Pakistani export products, mainly textiles, as the country still struggles to recover from devastating flooding last year.

The euro-deputies opted to introduce a safeguard clause however, allowing restrictions to be reinstated if imports threaten EU producers.

EU supply chain law fails, with 14 states failing to back it

Member states failed on Wednesday to agree to the EU's long-awaited Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence Directive, after 13 EU ambassadors declared abstention and one, Sweden, expressed opposition (there was no formal vote), EUobserver has learned.

Angry farmers block Brussels again, urge fix to 'unfair' prices

Following weeks of demonstrations across Europe, farmers returned to Brussels to protest over unfair competition in prices, as EU agriculture ministers met just a few metres away to discuss a response. The police used water cannon and tear gas.

EU's €723bn Covid recovery fund saw growth, but doubts remain

The €723bn Covid-19 recovery fund, launched three years ago, has been a success, according to a mid-term internal review — but less effective than initially predicted. And according to one NGO, the commission painted an "overly positive picture".

Opinion

The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity

The EU's own analysis has made it clear this is economic self-sabotage, and it's politically foolish three months from European elections where the far-right are predicted to increase support, writes the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

Opinion

Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?

Europeans deserve a digital euro that transcends the narrow interests of the banking lobby and embodies the promise of a fairer and more competitive monetary and financial landscape.

Latest News

  1. EU must overhaul Africa trade offer to parry China, warns MEP
  2. EU watchdog faults European Commission over Libya
  3. Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour
  4. The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity
  5. Defence, von der Leyen, women's rights, in focus This WEEK
  6. The farming lobby vs Europe's wolves
  7. EU socialists fight battle on two fronts in election campaign
  8. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us