GENEVA — Trading partners praised the European Union in a World Trade Organization forum for maintaining an open trade and investment regime, despite the financial and sovereign debt crises in some member states.
But, led by China, the EU was also faulted for resorting to targeted abuse of trade remedies, such as antidumping investigations, in order to shield problematic sectors from international competition.
“The fact there has not been a retreat into protectionism is in itself a positive sign,” said a report compiled by the WTO on the EU’s trade regime, which was reviewed by WTO members during a two-day forum that ended on Friday.
Peter Balas, the EU’s deputy director-general for trade, said the 28-country bloc represents about 17 percent of world trade in goods and more than 25 percent in commercial services, and has maintained a key role in global investment flows.
“All this despite the financial crisis and its unprecedented impact on the EU,” Balas said. “We remain open and are committed to remain open.”
Michael Punke, deputy U.S. Trade Representative, said the U.S. “values its trade and economic relationship with the EU immensely,” and noted that each day goods and services worth nearly $3 billion are traded across the Atlantic, or more than $9 million every five minutes.
Punke said this month’s launch of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement negotiations between the U.S. and EU “can complement and enhance trade liberalization that has occurred within the multilateral [WTO] trading system.”
During the proceedings, China and other delegations raised their objections about the heavy use of antidumping measures. Under global trade rules, dumping occurs when an exporter sells goods abroad at a lower price than they trade for in the home market or at below cost.
“We have serious concerns that the Chinese products are always a major target,” said Yi Xiaozhun, China’s WTO ambassador. “According to our calculations, the measures targeted at Chinese products account for more than 40 percent of the total measures imposed from 2008 to 2012. China is firmly opposed to abuse of trade remedy measures as a form of a handy trade protectionist tool.”
The WTO report notes that in 2012, the EU imposed 102 antidumping measures that included 48 against Chinese products, seven against India, four against Indonesia and two against the U.S.
Sources said in a closed-door session, a senior Chinese trade diplomat, Huang Rengang, and the EU’s Balas had a “hard, robust exchange” over antidumping, which Brussels maintains are initiated following complaints by industry.
In 2012, the EU’s merchandise exports were $2.1 trillion, or the same as the year before, and its imports reached $2.3 trillion, down 4 percent, according to WTO statistics.
The WTO report also shows that the EU, a major textiles and apparel exporter, imposes higher tariffs on imports of textiles and apparel. In 2012, for 850 textile category tariffs averaged 6.6 percent and 341 apparel line tariffs averaged 11.6 percent, compared with the 4.4 percent average rate for all industrial goods.