Barriers to trade: as protectionism rises, EU continues opening up export markets for European firms


Press conference by Cecilia Malmström, Member of the EC in charge of Trade, on the annual report on trade and investment barriers. European Union, 2019 Source: EC – Audiovisual Service

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.

The European Commission’s report released today confirms the continuous rise in barriers encountered by European companies in foreign markets. Thanks to the EU’s firm response, 123 such barriers have been eliminated since the beginning of the current Commission mandate, allowing for more than €6 billion extra exports in 2018.

The latest edition of the Trade and Investment Barriers Report (TIBR) identifies 45 new trade barriers put in place in countries outside the EU in 2018, bringing the total number to a record high of 425 measures in 59 different countries, costing EU businesses billions of euros every year.

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “In the complex context we have today with a growing number of trade tensions and protectionist measures, the EU must keep defending the interests of its companies in the global markets. Making sure that the existing rules are respected is of utmost importance. Thanks to our successful interventions, 123 barriers hindering EU exports opportunities have been removed since I took office in late 2014. Working on specific problems reported by our companies we manage to deliver economic benefits equivalent in value to those brought by the EU’s trade agreements. Those efforts certainly must continue.”

China and Russia top the overall list, maintaining respectively 37 and 34 problematic trade measures. Most impact for EU exports arises from measures introduced by China, U.S., India and Algeria. They concern 80% of all EU exports affected by new measures and focus predominantly on steel, aluminium and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sectors.

The EU’s efforts to enforce the existing international trade rules are providing clear results. Intervening in close collaboration with EU Member States and businesses under the EU’s enhanced Market Access Strategy, the Commission has eliminated last year as much as 35 trade barriers, among others in China, Japan, India and Russia. These measures spanned across eight key EU export and investment sectors including agriculture and fisheries, cars, textiles and leather, wines and spirits, cosmetics, mineral products, aircraft parts and ICT equipment. Some of them also affected various sectors in a horizontal way.

Trade and investment barriers eliminated in 2018 included among others:

  • Chinese restrictions on imports of bovine and ovine products
  • Russian unlawful anti-dumping measures on light commercial vehicles
  • Duties on electronic goods and mandatory veterinary certificates restricting exports of leather goods in India
  • Restrictions on use of authorized additives in wine and spirits in Japan
  • Mandatory labelling of textiles in Egypt



Enforcement of international trade rules has been identified as a top priority in the Commission’s ”Trade for All” strategy of 2015. Removing trade barriers is a key Commission’s task along with the stronger focus on the implementation of the EU’s trade agreements. The EU’s enhanced Market Access Partnership aims to ensure that our companies can compete on a level playing field when seeking export and investment opportunities in countries outside Europe.

The Commission’s Report on Trade and Investment Barriers has been published annually since the beginning of the 2008 economic crisis, and is entirely based on trade and investment barriers on foreign markets, reported by European companies.

The Commission has also launched Market Access Days in Member States to raise awareness amongst smaller companies of how the EU can help address the barriers they face. In little more than 12 months, events with local businesses were held in Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Portugal and France.

Following the publication of the 37th annual Report on the EU’s Anti-Dumping, Anti-Subsidy and Safeguard activities on 28 March 2019, this is the second enforcement-related report released by the Commission in 2019. A report presenting advancement in implementation of the EU trade agreements will be published later this year.






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