Trade provides a fillip for the global recovery in general and, in particular, for a convalescent EU. According to the European Commission, trade has never been more important for the EU economy. In light of the current economic hardships, trade has become an imperative means for propping lip economic growth without resorting to seriously constricting public finances. Despite this, the Commission considers that the right policies at home are crucial for reaping the benefits of trade.

In order to keep a firm grip against unfair trade, the Commission has turned to its trade defence tools - antidumping and anti-subsidy measures - to make sure that the EU market is not hampered by unfair trade practices abroad. One needs to keep a close eye on the EU's trade defence and trade-related measures, as well as the proliferation of health, safety and environmental protection measures, with the EU remaining at the forefront when it comes to safeguarding the environment and the overall wellbeing of consumers.

New Anti-dumping and Anti-subsidy Investigations

Indicative of its widespread deployment of trade defence tools, the Commission has initiated some 20 new antidumping and anti-subsidy investigations each year since the global recession began in 2009. Not surprisingly, China has remained the main target of these defence instruments. In 2012, for instance, 13 new anti-dumping investigations were initiated of which four were against China. The same year also saw six new anti-subsidy investigations opened, three of which concerned China (i.e. inquiries related to organic coated steel, bicycles and solar panels).

In tandem with the still sluggish EU economy, this disquieting trend has continued into 2013, with three new anti-dumping investigations and one new anti-subsidy investigation opened during the first half of the year, all of which were initiated against the Chinese mainland.

Revision of regulatory moves

What may ring alarm bells is that the European Commission initiated proposals in April 2013 aimed at modernizing the bloc's trade defence tools. If these become law, the proposed modernization plans will amend the EU's basic anti-dumping and anti-subsidy regulations, brining in a raft of new requirements and pre-conditions. Undoubtedly, one of the most important additions being envisaged as part of the EU's revised trade defence artillery will require EU producers of "like" products to co-operate in an anti-dumping or anti-subsidy investigation which has been initiated ex officio by the Commission, i.e. without a formal complaint from EU producers. While ex officio investigations are already theoretically possible under existing regulations, they are rarely used in practice. The obligation on EU producers to co-operate will likely make it easier for such ex officio investigations to be conducted and for the necessary data to be collected.