Trade: Safeguard Procedure to be Launched against Chinese Textiles
Two weeks ago the European Commission published guidelines on the use of safeguards to limit the dramatic increase of Chinese textiles imports observed since 1 January 2005 (see Brussels Brief of 8 April 2005). On Monday 25 April, the European Commissioner for Trade, Peter Mandelson, is expected to commence the process, which could ultimately lead to a re-introduction of import quotas for Chinese textile products. This follows at least one complaint filed by the European textile producers in addition to heavy pressure from a large number of Member States. Furthermore, some of these Member States have blocked the adoption in the Council of the new Regulation on the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), scheduled to come into force on 1 April 2005, supposedly because they are opposed to granting preferential treatment to Indian textiles. This action is however suspected to be an attempt to put additional pressure on the European Union (EU) for intervention against Chinese textiles, and it will be interesting to see if Mr Mandelson’s expected move on Monday will be sufficient for a solution to be found on the GSP.
Trade: Revised Offer on Services for Doha Development Agenda
On 20 April 2005 the European Commission presented to EU Member States a proposal for the revised EU offer on services for the Doha Development Agenda. Revision of initial offers made in 2003 are to be tabled by the end of May 2005 in accordance with the agreement reached between World Trade Organisation (WTO) members in July 2004 at the request of developing countries. The EU is the world’s largest exporter and importer of services, accounting for 24% of trade in services worldwide. Following enlargement of the EU, the scope of its offer on services has increased, facilitating access to a market of 455 million EU consumers. The Commission is not offering commitments in respect of EU markets for education, health or audiovisual services.
Trade: Online Consultation on Origin Marking
The European Commission has launched an online consultation on the possible development of an EU regulation on country of origin marking. There is currently no obligation to indicate the name of the country of origin on most of the products that are marketed in the EU. Such a regulation would impose a compulsory mark indicating the name of the country of origin for certain imported products, particularly in the clothing, footwear and ceramics sectors. In short, the Commission would like to know whether consumers want to be informed about the country of origin of products they purchase and whether European retailers and producers consider that the “made in…” marking can serve as an instrument of competitiveness.
State aid: Commission Closes Inquiries into French, Italian and Spanish Public Broadcasters
The European Commission has closed the existing procedures under European Community Treaty State aid rules regarding the financing of public broadcasters in France, Italy and Spain.
At the end of 2003, the Commission issued a preliminary request asking those Member States to implement appropriate measures in respect of their existing financing schemes for their national public broadcasters. The measures recommended by the Commission aimed to ensure that public and private broadcasters compete on equal terms in commercial markets such as television advertising. In particular, the Commission recommended that financing of public broadcasters should not exceed the strict minimum necessary to ensure the proper execution of the public service mission, should not unduly benefit commercial activities (cross-subsidies) and should be transparent. The Commission closed the procedures after having noted that the Italian, Spanish and French authorities had accepted or already implemented its recommendations.
Consumer Protection: Register of Existing GM Food and Feed Products Published
The European Commission has published a list of 26 genetically modified (GM) products which could legally be placed on the EU market prior to 18 April 2004 - the date of application of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 on GM food and feed - and which now qualify under the “grandfather” provisions of this Regulation. These so-called “existing” products were notified to the Commission before 18 October 2004, together with certain safety information. In co-operation with the Joint Research Centre, the Commission examined the validity of the notifications and accepted their registration under the “grandfather” provisions. These products can continue to be marketed for nine years, at the end of which a renewal of the authorisation must be sought. The application for renewal will be assessed under the general authorisation provisions of the new Regulation.
Competition: Commission Clears PKN Orlen-Unipetrol Deal
The European Commission has given the green light to the acquisition of the Czech company Unipetrol by the Polish refinery PKN Orlen. Both companies are active in crude oil processing and the manufacture of petrochemical products. The acquisition was effected as part of the process of privatising Unipetrol and it will lead to the creation of an important regional player in Central-Eastern Europe. The Commission focused its investigation on the markets for non-retail sales of fuel oils (gasoline and diesel), soda lye and bitumen. The Commission found that the operation would not create competition concerns, as it will only lead to very small overlaps in the parties’ respective national markets. In addition, the Commission found that the parties will continue to face strong competition from the big international players.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 25 April – Friday 29 April 2005
General Affairs and External Relations Council (25-26 April 2005)
Agriculture and Fisheries Council (26 April 2005)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Approximation of laws
C-31/04 Commission v Spain
Environment and consumers
C-494/01 Commission v Ireland
C-157/04 Commission v Spain
Judgments Convention/Enforcement of judgments
C-104/03 St. Paul Dairy Industries
C-376/02 "Goed Wonen"
C-410/03 Commission v Italy
C-515/03 Eichsfelder Schlachtbetrieb
C-140/04 United Antwerp Maritime Agencies and Seaport Terminals
Freedom of establishment
C-3/04 Poseidon Chartering
Privileges and immunities
Joined Cases C-346/03, C-529/03 Atzeni and Others
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
Law governing the institutions
Joined Cases T-110/03, T-150/03, T-405/03 Sison v Council