Trade Policy

On 16 of June 2020, Commissioner Hogan launched a public consultation to review the strategic direction of EU trade policy in light of all the developments that have taken place since 2015, the year of the last review. The recent COVID pandemic, the EU-US trade dispute going on for more than 2 years and the necessary reform of WTO are key developments that need to be taken into consideration when deciding what the EU’s external trade policy should deliver for the years to come. spiritsEUROPE is preparing a response to the EU consultation, based on our long-term Trade Strategy adopted earlier this year.

We strongly believe in free trade and fair competition. Ensuring that these principles are truly implemented internationally is critical to our sector’s growth. Our sector has invested in building strong categories and brands which have gained a global reputation for quality and taste. It is a major challenge for companies to protect their heritage and innovation. In that process, trade needs to continue to top the EU agenda with the right ingredients for a perfect mix: an ambitious EU trade policy based on the values of fairness and sustainability.

To preserve market access, we need to fight calls for protectionism and support our sector in reaching out to new territories. EU trade policy should, therefore, pursue the bilateral agenda which has delivered already so many benefits as highlighted by Commissioner Hogan. Benefits in terms of wider consumer choice, opportunity to export our values and standards, growth for European producers and recognition of the international leadership of the Union. 

These FTAs are key to achieve the dismantling of tariffs, efficient customs formalities, to fight tax discrimination, promote regulatory convergence, solve trade disputes and crucially for us, to achieve strong protection of intellectual property rights such as Geographical Indications (GIs). In 2019, our exports outside Europe reached €12.5 bn (+119% over the last decade) and GIs accounted for two-thirds of these exports, generating growth and jobs back in the regions and rural community where they are produced.

However, bilateral and multilateral trade rules are worth nothing if they are not properly implemented and enforced. We have for long called for an enforcement body for the internal market and external trade. We fully welcome the forthcoming appointment of an EU Chief Trade Enforcement Officer, who will have a critical role in addressing swiftly any market access issues and supporting SMEs to make the best of the opportunities provided by the FTAs.

While revising our EU trade policy, we should also have clear objectives for the reform of the WTO. The essential functions of the WTO should be preserved and modernised to continue to offer confidence and stability for business to trade and invest. It is fundamental to us and we look forward to engaging with the new leadership team of the WTO.

Bilateral Agreements

Amongst others, discussions on bilateral trade deals are currently ongoing with:

  • Malaysia
  • India
  • Philippines
  • Indonesia
  • USA (on hold)

Market Access

Market access for goods means the conditions, tariff and non-tariff measures, agreed by members for the entry of specific goods into their markets.  In the future, EU prosperity will increasingly depend on the export of high value-added EU products and services to rapidly growing emerging markets.  Improving market access for EU products and services is a sine qua non of this process.

With exports in over 150 world markets, one of the key objectives of spiritsEUROPE is to secure free and fair access for EU spirits in third-country markets.  Market access improvements for our sector often include improvements with tariffs and also improvements in the regulatory environment, such as certification procedures, customs cooperation, labelling requirements and product standards.

European Commission Market Access Database


If not enforced, trade rules have no value. The EU has a key role in implementing and monitoring agreements.  DG Trade needs the resources to ensure that agreements are respected and operate as the negotiators intended them to operate. Our sector supports an appropriate allocation of resources across DGs and within DG Trade to ensure sufficient monitoring of agreements and pursuit of non-compliant practices. Indeed, Europe should not have to negotiate twice for the same concession.  We urge the Commission to focus more on effective enforcement including the recourse to dispute settlement mechanisms (bilateral or multilateral).

Further reading:

  • Trading places: reallocating Commission staff resources – Parliament Magazine
  • Paper tiger? EU trade enforcement as if binding pacts mattered – New Direction

Taste of Europe - High level missions   

For several years since 2016, spiritsEUROPE joined a High-Level EU Businesses Delegation led by Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to promote the “Taste of Europe” abroad. The aim was to increase opportunities for EU agriculture and to help open doors for new exports.  In another word, to help promote the Taste of Europe abroad.

As our distilled spirits are produced from such delightful raw materials as grapes, sugar-cane, molasses, potatoes, cereals, etc. we fully share the ambition of the Commissioner to increase jobs and growth in the sector through trade.

Ulrich Adam (spiritsEUROPE), Commissioner Phil Hogan, Ignacio Sanchez Recarte (CEEV)

European Parliament

Since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, the European Parliament (EP) has played an increasingly important role in shaping EU trade policy, bringing about more transparent negotiations and granting them democratic legitimacy. While it is not directly involved in negotiations it has the ultimate power of veto on trade agreements.  For further information on the EP’s work on international trade please visit the INTA homepage.

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