Industrial products: Lifting the last impediments in the EU single market

Press conference of Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission, after the 3rd meeting of the High Level Expert Group on Key Enabling Technologies. (EC Audiovisual Services, 29/01/2014).

Press conference of Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission, after the 3rd meeting of the High Level Expert Group on Key Enabling Technologies. (EC Audiovisual Services, 29/01/2014).

Still twelve years after the launch of the great ‘Single internal Market‘ project, which transformed the European Union into really a seamless market, and some industrial sectors continue being plagued by bureaucratic and technical impediments to trade. Understandably, the sectors and products in question are not of a simple nature. They comprise highly sophisticated machinery and industrial installations. The technical and the administrative requirements and specifications for those articles have been developed, to a large extent, independently by the various member states. The result is largely diverging national markets, presenting at times insurmountable obstacles to trade.

To cure these impediments to trade, which weigh down particularly on SMEs, and to slash the administrative burden in eight industrial sectors, this week the European Parliament voted a relevant Commission proposal. The proposal is aimed at making the internal market leaner for eight industry sectors. It covers “lifts, electrical and electronic equipment, simple pressure vessels, non-automatic weighing instruments, measuring instruments, explosives for civil uses, equipment used in explosive atmospheres and products which cause electromagnetic disturbances”.

Helping the SMEs

The European Commission, in order to cure those problems, published on 21/01/2014 a Communication (adopted by the Parliament) entitled, “A vision for the internal market for industrial products”. The target was to push for “a more integrated internal market based on rationalising the existing regulatory framework”. Given that the field of this initiative mainly contained products and industrial systems which are traded between businesses, the SMEs which specialised in those sectors were in a disadvantaged position in comparison to their multinational competitors.

The obvious reason for that was the large extent and the complexity and the differences in the administrative environment between member states. Also, the technical specifications, the different labeling or traceability requirements, the divergences regarding the declaration of conformity and the legal definitions which apply create impediments to trade.

To further assist the SMEs, the EU’s executive arm commissioned the Enterprise Europe Network to “reinforce and strengthen the support for SMEs in the internal market and further enhance the assistance given for access to finance and for the innovation management capacity of SMEs”.

Updating the rules

According to the Commission, the updated rules aim to “ensure easier market access and a higher level of protection of life and property. They will involve:
Clearer responsibilities for manufacturers, importers and distributors when they sell products (e.g. in terms of conformity marking, labelling and traceability of products);
Possibility for wider use of electronic means for economic operators when demonstrating compliance; for example products’ technical documentation should not necessarily be in paper form and may be sent to market surveillance authorities electronically;
More guarantees for consumer safety through a traceability system allowing the tracking of defective or unsafe products and through clearer rules and improved supervision of conformity assessment bodies;
Better equipping national market surveillance authorities to track and stop dangerous imports from non-EU countries”.

This new initiative also emphasizes and is targeted at blocking the import of substandard products from third countries. Such imports place the European producers out of the market on the account of costs. In many EU member states, the administrative, technical and safety rules imposed on those industrial sectors and products are so detailed that create a large extra burden, in producing, warehousing, transporting, selling, and installing them.

At the same time cheap imports of similar, often substandard, products originating from third countries, take advantage of the differences between the relevant legislation in various EU countries and enter the single market under much different and favourable conditions. This Commission initiative is meant to stop this disadvantage to home producers.

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