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newsTariff rate quotas for EU27 : EU ambassadors agree on the Council's position

EU ambassadors today agreed on the draft schedule of tariff rate quotas (TRQs) that the EU will apply after Brexit. The schedule will now have to be agreed with the European Parliament before it becomes EU law.

The UK's withdrawal from the EU has implications beyond the bilateral relationship between the EU and the UK, in particular with regard to their commitments under the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The existing quantities of the EU's WTO bound TRQs for agricultural, fish and industrial goods have been established on the basis of the UK being an EU member state and forming part of the EU market. It is therefore necessary to reflect the fact that the EU's WTO schedule will no longer apply to the UK after its withdrawal from the EU.

The adjustment of the EU's WTO bound TRQs entails dividing up the existing quantities between the UK and the EU, based on previous trade patterns.

The EU will have to engage in negotiations with WTO partners for each of these tariff rate quotas. However, in the interest of maintaining clarity and predictability in the multilateral trading system, the EU needs to be able to proceed unilaterally to the dividing up of the tariff rate quotas for the period between the UK's withdrawal from the EU and the conclusion of a final agreement within the WTO.

Copyright European Union

newsEuropean Union commitments to Our Ocean 2018

Brussels, 29 October 2018

The European Union makes 23 new commitments to the Our Ocean 2018 conference. These commitments represent around EUR 300 million and cover all six themes of Our Ocean. In addition, several EU Member States have their own commitments. They add up to the 35 commitments made by the EU in 2017.

Together, these commitments prove that healthy, safe and clean oceans are, and will remain, a priority for the European Union.

Blue Economy

1. The European Union announced a joint action with China on marine data. The European Union will put forward EUR 3.5 million in support of this project.

2. The European Union announced that, following the signing of the Belém Statement in July 2017 by the EU, South Africa and Brazil, it continues to work towards an All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance by fostering enhanced cooperation frameworks with Atlantic partners. As part of the overall annual EUR 250 million invested in marine and maritime research projects from the Horizon 2020 Programme, the EU has allocated EUR 64 million for projects which will start in 2019 and 2020. This funding will go towards assessing ecosystems, seafloor mapping and developing innovative ecosystem-based aquaculture systems with the aim of having by 2020 more than 1000 research teams working from Antarctica to the Arctic. Furthermore, EUR 18 million will be allocated to ocean observations and a pilot blue cloud in 2019.

3. Following successful initiatives to foster marine research cooperation in its surrounding sea basins, such as the Baltic (BONUS) and the Mediterranean (Bluemed), the European Union announced to launch a specific Research and Innovation Agenda for the Black Sea sea basin.

4. The European Union announced that it will launch a EUR 18.4 million investment initiative in 2018 to promote a sustainable blue economy in the European Union. EUR 5 million of this amount is to be awarded to "Blue Labs" that are to research and develop products or services on innovative solutions in the maritime and marine field. A further EUR 6 million is to be awarded for the benefit of skill development in the blue economy. Finally, EUR 7.4 million is to be awarded to demonstration projects in the blue economy.

5. The European Union announced to launch four regional projects under its satellite monitoring programme (Copernicus) in Africa in February 2018. The projects, bringing together 18 African countries and the African Union with EU support, are to develop services related to fisheries and aquaculture, coastal vulnerability and risk management, coastal ecosystems monitoring, ship traffic monitoring and the development of regional ocean forecast centres in Africa and the Indian Ocean.  

6. The European Union announced that it will support the fisheries sector of the Seychelles to further develop in a sustainable manner. The contribution of EUR 1.8 million is to upgrade the value chain of the country's fledgling fisheries and aquaculture sector, enhancing its competitiveness and bringing further quality jobs. The contribution is part of a wider EUR 10 million package that allows the Seychelles to reap the full potential of the current Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, thus enhancing Seychelles' competitive integration into the regional and international trading systems. The Seychelles is an important seafood processing hub for the EU as well as a longstanding partner under the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements that the EU has with a number of third countries.

Climate change impacts

7. The European Union announced to commit EUR 5 million to start designing new ocean forecasting models at the end of 2018. These models, based on big data computing, will be important for the further evolution of the marine services currently provided by the EU's satellite monitoring programme (Copernicus). Better forecasting means that the service can look a century ahead and can better aid decision making to tackle climate change impacts as well as build resilience to climate risks in the world, such as storm surges, coastal erosion and floods.

Marine pollution

8. The European Union announced a project worth EUR 9 million to reduce plastic waste and marine litter in South East Asia. The project is to support a transition to sustainable consumption and production of plastic and contribute to significantly reduce marine litter, including by supporting European approaches, policies and business models. The project will focus on China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, but is also to support indirectly countries in the Mekong Region and in the rest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As part of the recently launched plastics strategy, the EU is committed to working with partners around the world to come up with global solutions on marine pollution.

9. The European Union announced, as part of its plastics strategy 1) that it has initiated work on new rules on packaging to improve the recyclability of plastics and increase the demand for recycled plastic 2) new measures to curb plastic waste and littering, with a focus on single-use plastics and fishing gear (including a new legislative proposal published on 28 May 2018 and currently under discussion) and the use of micro-plastics on products and on 3) developing harmonised rules for the definition and labelling of biodegradable and compostable plastics.

10. The European Union announced further support for its plastics strategy by allocating EUR 100 million under its Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme to finance innovation on the development of smarter and more recyclable plastic materials, improving recycling chains as well as tracing and removing hazardous substances and contaminants from recycled plastics.

11. The European Union announced the upgrade of its mobile application (Floating Macro Litter Monitoring Application) monitoring riverine ocean pollution. While in the past the app was mainly used by scientists, version 2.0 will be made accessible to the general public. Not much is known about the amount of marine pollution coming from rivers, but by extending the app to a broader user audience, this knowledge is to further improve.

12. The European Union announced to support a waste management programme for the Pacific region. The EU will provide EUR 17 million to support Pacific countries in addressing issues relating to health and well-being, marine litter and biodiversity conservation.

13. The European Commission, together with the United Nations Environment Programme and with the support of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, the European Union of Aquarium Curators, the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the US Aquarium Conservation Partnership and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, announced that they will coordinate a global coalition of 200 aquariums by 2019 to raise public awareness about plastic pollution. Aquariums will be engaged in permanent activities in their facilities and in communication actions via all possible channels. They will be invited to change their procurement policies, for example in canteens and shops, to eliminate all single use plastic items. They will also be encouraged to ally with all potential partners and multipliers, such as sponsors, funders and NGOs, to maximise impact by promoting best practices in behavioural change on a local, regional, national and global scale.

Marine Protection

14. The European Union announced a project worth EUR 7 million to protect marine ecosystems and to promote exchange of knowledge on the effective management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) between Atlantic and South East Asia Regions. Marine Protected Areas can play a catalytic role in promoting stability through fostering better cooperation and understanding between countries and communities across borders.

15. The European Union announced that it has launched a new version of the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA) Explorer, providing the most advanced global information system characterising the world's terrestrial, marine and coastal protected areas. Digital Observatory for Protected Areas Explorer pulls together data from multiple sources, including from International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the EU. The latest version of the online database ( includes a completely revised interface that can be used on multiple devices (PCs, tablets and smartphones).

16. The European Union announced to finance a regional support programme for the sustainable management of natural resources in Pacific Overseas Countries and Territories. With this support, worth EUR 7 million from the 11th European Development Fund, reef and lagoon resources and aquaculture are to be managed in a more sustainable, integrated and adaptive way for Pacific island economies facing severe difficulties from climate change.

Sustainable Fisheries

17. The European Union announced a 36-month project to be implemented together with the government of Indonesia on trade in wildlife products. Among others, the project is to focus on the protection of the Banggai Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni). Native to Indonesia, this iconic species has become a very popular aquarium fish among fish keepers worldwide, but as a result, its wild population has been steadily declining according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red list of Threatened Species. The joint project is to facilitate science on the species, their sustained protection as well as develop alternatives for wild harvesting.  

18. The European Union announced its ECOFISH initiative. With a contribution of EUR 28 million, the project is to support sustainable management and development of fisheries, while addressing climate change resilience and enhancing marine biodiversity. In particular, ECOFISH is also to ensure that capacity is strengthened to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the East Africa-Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region, and to support concrete fisheries management and governance initiatives in small-scale inland and marine fisheries.

19. The European Union announced that it will commit more than EUR 11 million in 2018 to improve governance, science and capacity building, as well as increase compliance in the 18 Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations in which the EU participates. The support is also to contribute to further cooperation between the different tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations under the Kobe process. The EU acknowledged its responsibility to promote sustainable fisheries and combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fisheries.

20. The European Union announced that legislative proposals have been tabled to strengthen the enforcement of fisheries controls proposing improvements to modernise and simplify the way in which fishing rules are monitored and complied with in the EU. Improving the way in which the EU can monitor the enforcement of EU rules on fisheries will intensify the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing. The proposals will also further support the effective implementation of the landing obligation, which comes fully into force as of next year and requires that fishermen land all catches to stop the wasteful practice of throwing unwanted fish back to the sea.

21. The European Union announced that it will contribute a minimum of EUR 500.000 EUR in 2018 to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to further to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries.

22. The European Union, as one of the ten signatories to the recently agreed Agreement to prevent unregulated fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean, will contribute EUR 4 million for scientific support to the Agreement. Collecting expert scientific advice will be crucial to improve the understanding of the ecosystem(s) of the marine Arctic and, in particular, of determining whether fish stocks might exist in this area that could be harvested on a sustainable basis. The EU has also offered to host the Sixth Meeting of Scientific Experts on Fish Stocks in the Central Arctic Ocean, a meeting of science experts to support the implementation of this agreement, at the site of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Ispra (Italy) in 2019.

23. The European Union announced a 33% increase, worth EUR 2.8 million, for the 2018 budget of the Copernicus maritime security service to support IUU fisheries detection and deterrence. This top-up will allow the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) to further carry out fisheries controls via satellite, including tackling Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fisheries in different parts of the world. The total budget for Copernicus maritime security service for 2018 will be EUR 7.9 million.

MEMO/18/6210 Copyright European Union

newsEU action to restrict plastic pollution: Council agrees its position

The EU is taking action to reduce plastic pollution by setting tough new restrictions on single-use plastic products. Today's meeting of member states' ambassadors in the Permanent Representatives Committee agreed the Council's position on a proposal for a new directive which is part of the EU's efforts to protect the environment and clean up the oceans.

The new rules will ban the use of certain throwaway plastic products for which alternatives exist. In addition, specific measures will be introduced to reduce the use of the most frequently littered plastic products, especially those that are often found on European beaches.

Plastic waste is polluting our rivers, our beaches and our oceans. This is why we will ban plastic products for which good alternatives exist. And we will make plastic producers pay for cleaning up. Today's decision is an important step towards protecting our environment

Elisabeth Köstinger, the federal minister of sustainability and tourism of Austria which currently holds the presidency of the Council

The Council has made the original draft directive clearer by being more specific in the listing of the products affected:

  • On the definition of single-use plastic products, the Council clarifies that these products are typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time before being disposed of.
  • In determining whether a particular item is considered to be a single-use plastic product, the tendency for the item to be littered will play a decisive role. The Council wants the Commission to publish guidelines, in consultation with member states, on examples of what is to be considered a single use plastic product.
  • The Council agrees with the Commission proposal to design single-use beverage containers so that their lids and caps stay attached to the bottle. In this regard, the Council specifies that bottles made of glass or metal are not covered by this directive but that it shall apply to plastic bottles and composite beverage packaging.
  • Up to 2023, paper plates with plastic linings are included in the list of products for which there will be a reduction in consumption. Plates made wholly of plastic will be banned.
  • The Council proposes ambitious extended producer responsibility schemes and an obligation on producers to cover clean-up costs and the costs of awareness raising measures, including for products which no such obligation exists currently, namely wet wipes and balloons.

The Council also wants the legislation to be more ambitious:

  • The Commission has proposed that producers of plastic items cover the costs of litter cleanup. The Council wants this obligation to be extended to apply also to companies which import or sell such single-use plastic products or packaging in Europe.
  • The Council adds expanded polystyrene cups for beverages to the list of items for which there will be a restriction on placing them on the market.
  • There are certain single-use plastic products for which no suitable alternatives currently exist. However measures will be taken at national level to prevent an increase in the consumption of such products through the setting of national targets. The aim is to achieve a measurable and sustained reduction over a set period of time.

The Council has introduced provisions to improve the implementation of the directive:

  • The Commission proposed an improved product design for caps and lids made of plastic for beverage containers in order to prevent their leakage into the environment. The Council has underlined the need for the rapid development of harmonized standards to ensure that this part of the proposal is implemented effectively.
  • The Council has been more specific about the markings on those single-use plastic products which are most frequently thrown away inappropriately to allow consumers to make better choices.
  • While the obligation to separate waste requires that different types of waste be kept separate, the Council's position is that it should be possible to collect certain types of waste together, provided that this does not impede high-quality recycling. The setting of collection targets for plastic bottles should be based on the number of plastic bottles placed on the market or the number of waste bottles generated in any member state. The calculation of the weight of waste should take account of all waste plastic bottles, including those which are littered outside waste collection systems.

Finally, the Council has also taken measures to reduce the administrative costs of the directive:

  • On extended producer responsibility schemes, the Council stresses that the calculation methodology for the costs of cleaning up litter should be proportionate. To reduce administrative costs member states may set financial contributions for cleaning up litter by agreeing multiannual amounts.
  • Provided that the targets and objectives of the legislation are achieved, member states may transpose the provisions on consumption reduction and extended producer responsibility schemes through agreements between the relevant authorities and the sectors concerned.

Member states broadly supported the mandate at today's meeting, and some member states indicated that the interlinkages between this directive and the existing waste legislation need further consideration in the upcoming negotiations.

Background and next steps

The proposal under discussion is part of the EU's plastics strategy. The Council Working Party on the Environment has been working on the draft directive since it was presented by the Commission in late May 2018. Environment ministers discussed the proposal at their meetings on 25 June and on 9 October.

The European Parliament voted its position on the proposal on 24 October.

Today's mandate means that the Austrian Presidency of the Council can begin talks with the European Parliament. A first trilogue meeting will take place on 6 November.

Copyright European Union

newsReport: EU trade agreements deliver on growth and jobs, support sustainable development

Brussels, 31 October 2018

The better access to foreign markets negotiated by the EU benefits European companies, workers and consumers.

According to the second annual report about the implementation of trade agreements issued today, these agreements – covering nearly 70 markets all over the world – are proving effective in removing barriers to trade and promoting high standards of labour and environment protection. However, European exporters could make even more out of the opportunities offered by the agreements in place.

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: "Over the years, the EU has invested greatly in developing the world's largest network of trade agreements. The latest facts and figures show us that this approach is delivering. These agreements help to boost the European economy by making it easier to do business all over the world, while supporting jobs back home. Our growing list of strategic agreements opens doors and gives a competitive edge to European companies in key markets. It also helps advance the respect of human and labour rights, and environmental standards. We must continue to focus on follow-up work to make sure that the rules in place are followed, and that businesses can make the very most out of these deals."

Today's report covers developments in 2017 and shows that trade under existing EU trade agreements keeps growing. To give a few examples, exports to South Korea increased by over 12% last year, exports to Colombia by more than 10%, and EU exports to Canada rose by 7% in the nine months following the entry into force of the EU-Canada agreement. EU agri-food producers are among the main beneficiaries of scrapped customs duties, with strong export increases last year especially to Ecuador (+34%), Chile (+29%), Serbia (+23%), Turkey and Costa Rica (both +14%).

As regards regulatory obstacles to trade, EU trade agreements last year made it possible to open the Mexican market to European health products, while also opening the Chilean and Peruvian markets to some EU agri-food exports, and paved the way for EU companies to bid in public tenders in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

When it comes to the promotion of EU standards and sustainable development, thanks to specific provisions in EU trade agreements, partners such as Canada and Mexico ratified International Labour Organisation Conventions last year, offering greater protection to workers.

Despite these positive developments, more could still be achieved if EU companies made full use of the opportunities available under the agreements in place. For that reason, together with Member States and business networks, the Commission is boosting its efforts to inform and help EU companies, especially smaller ones, to benefit from trade deals. Initiatives include improving online tools such as the Market Access Database and the Trade Helpdesk, and providing step-by-step guidance to businesses that want to make the most out of the recent EU trade agreements with Canada and Japan.    

Background and next steps

Today's report about the implementation of EU trade agreements is the second annual report of this type, covering the year 2017. The report details developments as regards 35 EU trade agreements (out of 39 in total). These include:

  • "First generation" agreements, before 2006, that focus on tariff elimination;
  • "Second generation" agreements, like those with South Korea, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, Central America and most recently, Canada, that extend to new areas, including intellectual property rights, services and sustainable development
  • Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) that create stronger economic links between the EU and its neighbouring countries
  • Economic Partnership Agreements focusing on development needs of African, Caribbean and Pacific regions.

EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström will discuss the contents of the report with EU Trade Ministers at the upcoming Council meeting on 9 November. Discussions with the European Parliament will also follow.

For more information

EU trade agreements implementation report

Annex to the report: Commission staff working document


EU trade agreements

IP/18/6267 Copyright European Union

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