EU says trade barriers in US, China, elsewhere hinder growth

The EU warned Thursday that restrictions to trade with key markets in the United States, Japan, China, India, Russia and Brazil are hindering the economic growth that Brussels reckons can only come from the rest of the world.

In the European Commission's third annual report on international trade barriers, Brussels said these six key markets had not made sufficient progress on 25 barriers identified last year.

This was despite a European Union victory against China on access to raw materials under a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling.

China was particularly cited for barriers to EU investment, with Indian obstacles to its telecoms market another sore point alongside a string of new tariffs in Brazil affecting for instance the auto industry.

Russia too, despite its entry into the WTO after 18 years of negotiation, was criticised for "a series of protectionist measures, the majority of which are not in compliance with Russia's WTO commitments."

Trade with these partners "although very significant, is far from having delivered its full potential, partly because these markets are growing extremely quickly and will most likely continue to do so, but mostly because they are not sufficiently open to EU exports," the report said.

"Chinese investment barriers persist," the Commission said, while "India refuses to withdraw the unjustified regulatory measures that maintain its agri-food market closed to imports."

Meantime, "protectionism in Argentina and Brazil is on the rise" in a host of sectors, Brussels warned in moves that "jeopardise the future of commercial relations."

Getting breakthroughs will require "stepped-up negotiations and an overhaul of means to enforce resolutions to disputes," the authors said.

Their conclusions are being released at a time when the 27-nation bloc is actively negotiating Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with India and Brazil, and holding talks with the Mercosur bloc including Argentina.

EU leaders have placed similar goals in talks with the United States and Japan over coming months, in hopes of delivering growth and jobs. The report noted that 90 percent of global economic growth by 2015 is expected to be generated outside the EU.

A series of lesser deals, from north African and the Middle East to Indonesia or Vietnam, are similarly in the pipeline after a decade of attempts to reach a global accord through so-called Doha talks foundered.

"Trade negotiations and enforcement efforts must go hand in hand," the report said, to "ensure stable and predictable framework conditions for business activities worldwide.

"Without an assertive enforcement strategy, implemented simultaneously through trade diplomacy, dispute settlement and negotiations ... the EU cannot guarantee the level playing field it owes to its business community on the global market."

The six main target markets are considered vital because "exports to these countries is expected to play a pivotal role in driving the EU's future exports growth," which the Commission estimates will average 3.6 percent over the 2012-2014 period.

rt/ccr/wai