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Lines of action of the Greek Presidency of the EU Council & Common Commercial Policy
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Lines of action of the Greek Presidency of the EU Council & Common Commercial Policy

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Acting within the larger context of the Greek Presidency’s goal setting, the specific priorities in the fields of external trade and common commercial policy could not but serve and promote the …

Acting within the larger context of the Greek Presidency’s goal setting, the specific priorities in the fields of external trade and common commercial policy could not but serve and promote the general priorities. In particular:

The priority “Development - Employment – Cohesion”, given that the external trade of the EU with third countries constitutes a driving force for economic growth, competitiveness and job creation. In other words, it is one of the best antidotes to the recession plaguing large areas of EU. Trade liberalization is an essential tool for achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. All the enhanced trade agreements promoted by the Greek Presidency, with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as a flagship, create a positive climate for optimism, stability and employment prospects.

The priority “Maritime Policies of the EU”, having as a goal the improvement the regulatory environment and the provision of cost-efficient and effective maritime transport services between the EU and third countries.

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  • 1. - 1- MINISTRY FOR DEVELOPMENT AND COMPETITIVENESS EXTERNAL TRADE GREEK PRESIDENCY REPORT ΑΠΟΛΟΓΙΣΜΟΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΠΡΟΕΔΡΙΑΣ In the field of external trade, the Greek Presidency aimed not only at the effective coordination of the EU negotiating strategy at the bilateral trade negotiations of the EU with third countries or groups of countries, but also worked systematically to facilitate the communication between the 28 EU member-states and to promote the dialogue between the Council and the other two core institutional bodies of the EU, namely the European Parliament and the European Commission. For this purpose, during the first half of 2014, two Ministerial meetings took place under the chairmanship of the Vice-Minister for Development and Competitiveness, Mr Notis Mitarachi, an Informal FAC/Trade in Athens( 27 - 28 February) and a formal FAC/Trade in Brussels( 8 May,2014). Moreover, during the same period under the Greek Presidency, at the national experts’ level, 62 meetings of the several Council Working Groups took place, as well as 6 joint meetings of Council Groups with representatives of the European Parliament (trialogue meetings). The results achieved by the Greek Presidency in the field of external trade, taking into account the general Presidency’s priorities proclaimed in January 2014, can be presented under four main pillars: 1. Vertical Priorities (per country or group of countries) 2. Horizontal (thematic) priorities 3. Multilateral trade agreements (under the auspises of the WTO) 4. Legislative work 1. Priorities per country/ group of countries (vertical priorities) 1.1. Negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP): From the very beginning, special emphasis was given to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its expected contribution to growth and employment, as it is estimated that the Agreement may contribute to an increase in EU external trade by up to € 120 billion. In this context, the monitoring of the progress made in the Negotiation process on TTIP, as well as the provision of guidelines to the European Commission, were of significant priority and dominated the Agenda at both ministerial and technical level. TTIP Negotiations were launched in July 2013 and till the beginning of the Greek Presidency, three Rounds of Negotiations had already taken place. During the Greek Presidency there has been a significant boost, with the completion of the 4th and 5th Round of Negotiations (10-14 March 2014 and 19-23 May 2014 respectively). It should Lines of action of the Greek Presidency of the EU Council & Common Commercial Policy Acting within the larger context of the Greek Presidency’s goal setting, the specific priorities in the fields of external trade and common commercial policy could not but serve and promote the general priorities. In particular: The priority “Development - Employment – Cohesion”, given that the external trade of the EU with third countries constitutes a driving force for economic growth, competitiveness and job creation. In other words, it is one of the best antidotes to the recession plaguing large areas of EU. Trade liberalization is an essential tool for achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. All the enhanced trade agreements promoted by the Greek Presidency, with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as a flagship, create a positive climate for optimism, stability and employment prospects. The priority “Maritime Policies of the EU”, having as a goal the improvement the regulatory environment and the provision of cost-efficient and effective maritime transport services between the EU and third countries.
  • 2. - 2- MINISTRY FOR DEVELOPMENT AND COMPETITIVENESS EXTERNAL TRADE GREEK PRESIDENCY REPORT ΑΠΟΛΟΓΙΣΜΟΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΠΡΟΕΔΡΙΑΣ be noted that the Negotiations are conducted on three agreed pillars: a) Market Access (tariffs, services and procurement), b) Regulatory Harmonization and c) Rules. Through the initiative of the Greek presidency, there was an attempt to cover part of the information deficit of European public opinion on this issue. In February 2014, during the Informal FAC/Trade meeting in Athens, a special event was organized, with the participation of European and American companies, whose representatives analyzed the opportunities as well as the problems they considered the TTIP could pose. This event was broadcast live on the internet. Besides, on 26th of March 2014, a EU-US Summit was held in Brussels. In the framework of general events of this Summit, a forum took place under the auspices of the Euro-American Chamber, where the keynote speaker was the Vice-Minister for Development and Competitiveness Mr Notis Mitarachi, who, during his speech, highlighted the opportunities and problems of the Agreement and defended the negotiating priorities of the EU. Both the protection of the investments as well as the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), are issues that cover an important part of the Negotiations. The Greek Presidency, after having successfully completed the Negotiations for the adoption of “a Regulation proposal establishing a framework for managing financial responsibility linked to investor-state dispute settlement tribunals, established by International Agreements to which the EU is party” (see below point 4.1), contributed significantly in identifying the common position of the European part in the face of the American part. Furthermore, during the Greek Presidency, the European Commission launched a three-month public consultation, on ISDS, the results of which will complete the EU approach on the subject. Special attention was given to the promotion of issues on which the European public opinion displays particular sensitivity, such as: - The support of SMEs, given that it was requested by the European Commission, that an addition be made, of a special fund in the context of TTIP, in the form of a special chapter for the support of small- and medium- sized enterprises. - The enhanced protection of the protected designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI) products, calling the European Commission to make clear to the American partners that these products are exclusive intellectual property rights of the respected regional communities. 1.2. EU - Canada CETA(Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement): As is well known, the negotiations were concluded on a political level on the 18th of October 2013. Since then, the two sides keep working to resolve technical issues. The Greek Presidency closely followed this process, especially in sectors such as the maritime transport services (particularly in reference to feedering services), or the trade of goods with a protected designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indications (PGI), objects of particular Greek interest. Moreover, defending the interests of the EU member-states, the Greek Presidency underlined on every occasion towards the EU Commission, that the final text of the agreement should fully reflect the joint competencies of the European Commission and the member - states (mixity), a fact which implies that the agreement can enter into force only after its approval by every member-state separately. 1.3. EU – Ukraine Negotiations: Although not initially included, the EU-Ukraine trade negotiations were subsequently added to the priorities of the Greek Presidency, in the wake of the political crisis that followed the conclusion of negotiations on the EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement. After a series of staggering political developments in the country, on 21 March 2014, there took place the signature of the political provisions of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, while the remaining chapters of the agreement, (including the DCFTA), were signed on 27 June 2014, in the margins of the European Council (27-28 June 2014). At the same time, two other important Free Trade Agreements were signed, notably with Moldova and Georgia. In an undeniably great effort to further assist the Ukrainian economy, on 14 April 2014,
  • 3. - 3- MINISTRY FOR DEVELOPMENT AND COMPETITIVENESS EXTERNAL TRADE GREEK PRESIDENCY REPORT ΑΠΟΛΟΓΙΣΜΟΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΠΡΟΕΔΡΙΑΣ the EU adopted the Autonomous Trade Measures (ATM) Regulation to Ukraine, offering the unilateral elimination or reduction of customs duties on goods of Ukraine origin. 1.4. EU - Japan FTA negotiations: The negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Japan began, following the authorisation of the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) (29.11.2012). During the Greek Presidency, the fifth round of the negotiations took place and progress was made on important issues of the negotiation, such as the reduction of tariffs, the understanding of the need for elimination of the non-tariff barriers, and the acknowledgment of the need to establish the equal access for European companies to the Japanese government procurement. However, despite the efforts of the Greek Presidency, there are important outstanding issues from the Japanese side in order to conclude the negotiations, notably the main issue of the dual registration system of vessels (known as the "Greek clause" in all bilateral EU trade agreements) and the vote of the bill that would amend in a meaningful and effective way the current Japanese legal system by adding a provision for the protection of Geographical Indications (PGI). 1.5. EU - China, Mediterranean Region, Persian Gulf Region States: The relations with China and with the countries of the Mediterranean and the Gulf Regions had special importance for the Greek Presidency, given that these countries are major partners of the EU in the global market. In this context, the Presidency worked closely with the European Commission and tried to promote the bilateral agreements under negotiation. These efforts also functioned as a catalyst to strengthen the bilateral relations between Greece and the countries concerned. 1.6. EU - Mercosur: Acknowledging the necessity for further access of the EU to the dynamically growing area of the Latin America, the Greek Presidency tried to give new impetus to the negotiations with the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela), given that the last round of negotiations was held on 22-26 October 2012. Both parties have been working towards the preparation of market access offers. However, no date has been set yet for the submission of the offers, despite some positive signs from the Brazilian side. 2. Theme-specific priorities (horizontal priorities) 2.1. EU Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) & Protected Designation of Origin (PDOs): It was reaffirmed, under the Greek Presidency, that the need for an increased protection of high-quality European agricultural products, the vast majority of which have been certified as Geographical Indications (PGI) and Protected Designations of Origin (PDO), should remain an EU priority as regards all the bilateral Trade Negotiations. The issue of the international protection of EU GIs was discussed at the Informal FAC/Trade meeting in Athens, during the lunch of Ministers. During this lunch, it was stressed that Geographical Indications, which constitute intellectual property rights, are a tool of paramount importance for the promotion of high quality European agricultural products to the global markets and therefore for the increase of European exports. It was also recognized that the stalemate in WTO negotiations, creates huge problems for the majority of European agricultural products as regards their recognition and protection in third countries. On the part of the European Commission (represented by Commissioner, Mr. De Gucht), it was assured that it will continue its efforts for the establishment of a Wine and Spirits Register, as well as the extension of Article 23 TRIPS1, to include all agri-food products. In the same spirit, the reactivation of the Group W/52 in WTO2 was decided as a key objective of the EU. 1 TRIPs: Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual property Rights: A WTO Agreement for the protection of Intellectual property Rights in Trade.
  • 4. - 4- MINISTRY FOR DEVELOPMENT AND COMPETITIVENESS EXTERNAL TRADE GREEK PRESIDENCY REPORT ΑΠΟΛΟΓΙΣΜΟΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΠΡΟΕΔΡΙΑΣ2.2. International maritime transport services within the context of the External Trade Policy of the EU: Considering the fact that approximately 90% of the total trade between the EU and third countries and 40% of intra-European trade is carried by sea, along with our national efforts to make Greece an important transit hub, the Greek Presidency placed special emphasis on ensuring the inclusion of substantial provisions regarding shipping in all the ongoing trade negotiations between the EU and third countries (bilateral and multilateral), taking into account: - The existing joint/mixed competence of the EU Commission and the member-states regarding maritime policies, - The EU acquis concerning the establishment and operation of shipping companies, taking into account an issue of special Greek interest, i.e. the dual registration system of vessels. In the above context and in an effort to promote the horizontal priority of EU maritime policies in the field of trade, the Greek Presidency organized with great success the informal meeting of the Trade Policy Committee (Services and Investments) of the EU Council (Athens-Zappeion, 26/05/2014) on the topic "Global value chains and services: the transport / logistics dimension". 2.3. Export Credits: Regarding the field of Export Credits, the Greek Presidency has successfully completed a number of issues for which the negotiations among Member-States were particularly extensive. More specifically, the Greek Presidency encouraged and actively supported the efforts of the European Commission aimed at achieving the harmonization of officially supported export credits provided by or on behalf of Member-States of the E.U. and states non-members of the OECD and particularly China, with an ultimate objective being the neutralization of unfair competition on the part of the latter. Regarding the promotion and insurance of investments on Renewable Energy & Water Resources (or Climate Change Sector Understanding) to third (non-E.U.) countries, the Greek Presidency reached an agreement by which the repayment period was set on 15 years from the initial 10 years. The above agreement was sealed and finalized in the recent OECD meeting and is applicable as of July 15th 2014. This fact constitutes an undeniable success for the EU, since it seals a 4-year negotiation period between Member-States, and a particularly positive development for investors of relative projects, given that under today’s adverse economic conditions, the payback for their financial obligations is rendered extremely favorable. Given the remarkable know-how of the Greek companies in this specific sector, this issue became the object of great interest from a national perspective. Also, as for the issue of ‘Smart Grids’ (grids managing for example the powering with electricity of a city, with an aim being the saving of energy), the Greek Presidency reached a unanimous agreement, according to which ‘Smart Grids’ are incorporated in the above sectoral agreement on CCSU’s, as a separate annex. 3. Multilateral Agreements 3.1. WTO - In the aftermath of the Ministerial Conference, in December 2013, in Indonesia The 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was held in Indonesia, in December 2013. The principal concern for the EU was, at the time, the political decision to adopt measures facilitating world trade. At the Informal FAC/Trade meeting, held in Athens in February 2014, the Greek Presidency invited member – states to express their views on the framework that should be adopted by the European Commission for the continuation of negotiations within the realms of WTO, on the Doha Development Agenda. 2 W/52 WTO: A group of countries –with the EU, which includes the E.U. as well as the group of African countries and major emerging economies (Brazil, India, Argentina, etc.)- which in 2008 submitted a common notification to WTO on: a)the establishment of a Wine and Spirits Register, b) the extension of Article 23 TRIPs to include all agricultural products, c) progress on Biodiversity issues (legislation of interlocks for the management of genetic sources).
  • 5. - 5- MINISTRY FOR DEVELOPMENT AND COMPETITIVENESS EXTERNAL TRADE GREEK PRESIDENCY REPORT ΑΠΟΛΟΓΙΣΜΟΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΠΡΟΕΔΡΙΑΣ It has been decided that special weight be given to the finalization of the text of the Trade Facilitation Agreement with the aim to secure at the technical level also, what the EU has achieved at the political level in Indonesia. At the same time, emphasis was placed on developing a strategy for the formulation of the post-Bali work program. In particular, it was decided that: 1) the EU engage in an active role in the negotiations, 2)parallelism and balance be maintained between the three pillars: Services, Market Access to Non-Agricultural Products, Agriculture, and 3) topics such as Geographical Indications, Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB’s) and horizontal subsidies be included. 3.2. Green Goods and Services: In January 2014, in Davos, the EU together with 13 other WTO members, representing 86% of world trade in environmental goods, proceeded in the political announcement of an initiative to eliminate tariffs on a broad list of green goods. This initiative aims to advance the Doha Development mandate on reducing tariffs, as well as Non-Tariff Barriers, on environmental goods and services that help reducing the negative effects of the climate change, as it had been already agreed in 2001. The Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) adopted, on 5 May 2014, Council conclusions and negotiating directives, thus granting the European Committee negotiating authority in order for the European Committee to proceed in the initiative in question as well as promote negotiating directives. 4. Legislative work The Greek Presidency has been a credible mediator in order to facilitate the Parliament and the Council to move forward on the adoption of the following legislative proposals: 4.1. Financial Responsibility (Investor- to - State Dispute Settlement) Regulation Proposal: The approval, during the Greek Presidency, of the relevant proposal issued by the Commission, by the Council and the European Parliament ensures the creation of a stable framework for managing the financial liability that may arise from disputes between investors and Member States. This regulation is an important tool for mitigating uncertainty in Investment agreements concluded by the EU and its Member States with Third countries, a fact which is expected to contribute in improving the position of the EU and Member - States as an investment destination and simultaneously create a secure investment environment for European businesses. After a marathon effort to reconcile the opposing views, the Greek Presidency succeeded in the finalization of the Financial Responsibility Regulation, nearly two years after the submission of the original proposal of the European Commission. This Regulation is of especially great importance for small and medium Member–States, given the fact that it foresees the creation of common groups for the defence of both the EU’s and Member–States’ interests, within the framework of international arbitrations. Moreover, it provides legal support to Member–States involved in investor- state dispute settlements via access to the specialized services of the Commission. Thereby, the limited resources of Greece in this area may be supplemented through the ensured access to the much more integrated EU mechanisms. 4.2. Application and enforcement of international trade rules (Trade Enforcement): This Regulation, which was adopted during the Greek Presidency, is of a great importance, since it enables EU to timely and effectively address attitudes and practices of third countries breaching international agreements, which affect the trade interests of the member states. 4.3. International Procurement Instrument (IPI) Initiative: It concerns a Regulation proposal which aims to improve the access of EU economic operators to the public procurement markets of third countries by the transfer of this competence from the national to the EU level. The Greek Presidency did not manage to reconcile the controversial views of member states. However, the discussions
  • 6. - 6- MINISTRY FOR DEVELOPMENT AND COMPETITIVENESS EXTERNAL TRADE GREEK PRESIDENCY REPORT ΑΠΟΛΟΓΙΣΜΟΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΠΡΟΕΔΡΙΑΣ conducted as well as the exhaustive record of conflicting views, consist a solid basis for further negotiations during the Italian Presidency. 4.4. Modernization of Trade Defence Instruments (TDI): This proposal for regulation aims chiefly to modernise the procedure of imposing anti-dumping measures by taking into consideration a bigger range of market factors i.e. consumers and not only the producers of one product. The Greek Presidency tried to bridge the controversial points of view regarding a number of issues such as the lesser duty rule, the period of the imposed provisional measures, the shipping clause and the reimbursement of duties. Although it has not been possible to settle all outstanding issues, the Greek Presidency has prepared, in cooperation with the Italian Presidency, a common text regarding the current situation in order to facilitate the progress of the negotiations.