The sustainable and unhindered access to raw materials is one of the pillars of the EU’s strategy for raw materials. Many non-EU countries apply measures such as export taxes, import duties, or price-fixing, which distort free and transparent markets. To avoid these distortions and minimise their effect on the EU’s manufacturing industries, the EU engages in a number of bilateral and multilateral dialogues.
What the Commission does
The European Commission developed a strategy for raw materials, which was outlined in the 2008 Communication entitled the Raw Materials Initiative. This was revised in February 2011 in a Communication which further boosted the integration of raw material priorities into EU policies.
EU Trade policy is committed to ensuring that international raw materials markets operate in a free and transparent way. As a response to trade policy issues, the EU strategy aims to:
- propose to eliminate the export restrictions in bilateral and multilateral negotiations,
- tackle trade barriers through dialogues and other tools including WTO dispute settlements and the Market Access Partnerships;
- raise awareness in international fora such as the G8 (315 kB), G20, OECD, and UNCTAD. Recently, following the WTO ruling against Chinese export restrictions, China ended a quota system previously aimed at restricting exports of rare earths. This move was in line with a WTO panel ruling in March 2014.
See an overview of the different EU bilateral trade and investment agreements.
- The EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) includes the prohibition of duties, taxes, or other fees on the export of raw materials;
- The upcoming EU-Singapore FTA includes the prohibition of duties, taxes, or measures of an equivalent effect on the export of raw materials.
- The ongoing EU-Vietnam FTA negotiations aim to secure the prohibition of duties or taxes on a number of raw materials, including all Critical Raw Materials.
- The EU and Central America, and Colombia/Peru trade agreements include a prohibition of export duties or taxes on raw materials, with some minor exceptions;
- During the WTO accession of Tajikistan, a commitment was secured on the prohibition of export duties or taxes on raw materials, except for a list of products with bound rate (the ceiling rates as listed in members’ schedules or lists of commitments);
- WTO raw materials’ cases against China: successful conclusion of the first WTO case against China’s export restrictions on 9 raw materials (bauxite, coke, fluorspar, magnesium, manganese, silicon carbide, silicon metal, yellow phosphorus, and zinc) which were found in violation of WTO rules and of China’s commitments; a second case has been launched in 2012 against export restrictions applied by China on the rare earths tungsten and molybdenum;
- Outreach and transparency work in the OECD: outreach to non-OECD countries is on-going in close cooperation with the OECD.