European exporters reported a major increase in protectionism last year, the European Commission said Tuesday, while noting that it managed in 2017 to convince more countries to drop trade barriers than ever before.
The findings – from the commission’s annual report on trade and investment barriers – come amid a growing trade stand-off between the European Union and the United States, after Brussels responded with countermeasures to metal tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump.
“Protectionism is self-defeating and destructive, and it is on the rise,” said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.
Examples of trade barriers include unnecessary safety standards, administrative hurdles or import ceilings imposed by countries around the world that make it harder to export into those markets.
Overall, 67 new trade barriers were recorded in 2017 – raising the total to 396 global obstacles, potentially costing European companies more than 23 billion euros (26.8 billion dollars) in lost exports, Malmstrom said.
Meanwhile, the commission – the EU’s executive – managed to remove a record 45 barriers last year, affecting key export sectors including aviation, vehicles, electronics, textiles, pharmaceuticals, food and agriculture, steel and services.
The 2017 report does not include the new US tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent of aluminium imports imposed from the start of June, Malmstrom noted.
Since then, Brussels and Washington have not engaged in trade talks, Malmstrom said.
She also noted that the EU could impose provisional measures from mid-July to protect the European market against a flood of steel and aluminium products originally intended for the US.