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The week ahead in EU trade: 20-24 February 2017


Uncertainty over future EU US relations and Brexit preparations will provide the backdrop to a week in Brussels dominated by the daily policy grind in the Council.


United States vice president Michael Pence in Brussels

US vice president Michael Pence will meet EU top dogs on Monday (20 February 2017). Discussions with Council president Donald Tusk, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini will be about strengthening transatlantic cooperation, which for President Tusk “remains an absolute priority because it has until now been a key pillar of the free world”.

Pence is reputed for being in favour of trade and has been a supporter of US trade agreements criticised by president Trump. The meeting in Brussels is part of Mr Pence’s first trip abroad since he took office early in 2017 and follows on the annual Munich security conference. For the occasion Brussels-based journalists are not allowed more than to participate in a photo-op: no questions will be taken.


‘Brexit Bill’ examined by the House of Lords


The UK is expected to officially notify the European Union of its decision to leave the bloc next month. The government is preparing a European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill to this end.

The House of Commons in Westminster has approved the ‘Brexit Bill’ without major amendments on 8 February but observers believe that the House of Lords will show more resistance to the Government’s plans and fight harder to get amendments passed. Should what is called a ‘ping-pong’ between the upper and lower house in London ensue, government plans to trigger Article 50 in March could be put in jeopardy.


On the agenda at the Council

A number of technical meetings are taking place at the Council this week ahead of the European Parliament’s international trade committee meeting on 27 & 28 February.

On Tuesday (21 February 2017) member state representatives will discuss the new anti-dumping and anti-subsidy methodology proposal tabled by the Commission in November 2016. The legislation seeks to replace the so-called ‘analogue country methodology’ applied to ‘non market economies’ in its antidumping legislation. Instead it aims to use prices derived from constructed values that capture ‘substantial market distortions’ in a country of export under investigation. EU member states are under pressure to reach an agreement since the expiry last December of certain provisions in China’s WTO accession protocol. A national government source said member states holding discussions in a constructive atmosphere. They aim to achieve a solution by the end of the Maltese Presidency in July.

This week, the EU Commission is also to decide what to do next with its compromise proposal to the Council on the extension of antidumping duties on Chinese solar panels after an appeals committee on Friday 17 February left member states undecided.

On Wednesday (22 February 2017), services and investment experts from the member states will examine progress achieved in the sixth round of talks with Armenia. A DG Trade delegation was in Yerevan last week week to negotiate a new framework agreement with the Caucasian country to replacet he defunct DCFTA Armenia ditched in 2013. The little substance both sides can talk about include services trade liberalisation.

Member state experts will also look at the DCFTA with Tunisia, following a technical meeting with Tunis held in Brussels on 6-10 February 2017.  A first round of negotiations towards the DCFTA took place in April 2016, but the date of a second round is not yet set.

Discussions on data flows are continuing in order for the EU to table a compromise paper on the issue of cross-border data flows in coming free trade agreements. The text is not expected to be finalised so soon (read our article here).


MEP delegation in Mexico

Adelegation of Members of the European Parliament’s international trade committee will fly to Mexico to meet with political representatives and stakeholders. The move comes shortly after the EU and Mexico resolved to speed up free trade talks aimed at modernising an existing 2001 pact. A third negotiation round to this end is scheduled to take place on 3-7 April 2017.


WTO Dispute Settlement Body meeting

A panel report for the Russia anti-dumping duties on light commercial vehicles from Germany and Italy will be formally adopted at a meeting on Monday 20 February. Both parties can still opt to appeal the ruling. More on the panel’s findings here.

The implementation of the recommendations on the US Byrd amendment (“continued dumping and subsidy offset act” of 2000) will also be scrutinised by the DSB and the EU.


By Hermine Donceel