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Trade barriers: EU removes record number in response to surge in protectionism

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The annual report on Trade and Investment Barriers, released today, shows that the European Commission has eliminated the highest number ever of trade barriers faced by EU companies doing business abroad. European exporters reported a major increase in protectionism in 2017.

Commenting on the report, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: “As the world’s largest and most accessible market, the EU is determined to ensure that foreign markets remain equally open to our firms and products. Given the recent rise in protectionism in many parts of the world, our daily work to remove trade barriers has become even more important. Ensuring that our companies have access to foreign markets is at the heart of our trade policy. Today’s report also underlines that effective solutions can be found within the international rulebook. As protectionism grows, EU enforcement of the rules must follow suit.”

Thanks to the EU’s enhanced Market Access Strategy, 45 obstacles were lifted fully or in part in 2017 – more than twice as many as in 2016. The barriers removed spanned across 13 key EU export and investment sectors, including aircraft, automotive, ceramics, ICT & electronics, machinery, pharma, medical devices, textiles, leather, agri-food, steel, paper, and services. Overall, this brings the number of barriers eliminated under the Juncker Commission to 88.

Thanks to those barriers removed between 2014 and 2016 alone, in 2017 EU companies exported an additional €4.8 billion. This is the equivalent to the benefits of many of our trade agreements.

The report also shows that 67 new barriers were recorded in 2017, taking the total tally of existing obstacles to a stark 396 between 57 different trading partners around the world. This confirms the worrying protectionist trend identified in previous years. China displayed the largest increase in new barriers in 2017, followed by Russia, South Africa, India and Turkey. The Mediterranean region also showed a notable rise in barriers for EU companies. The nine countries with the highest number of trade barriers still in place are all G20 economies.

Examples of barriers eliminated in 2017:

  • Recognition of safety standards used by the EU machinery industry in Brazil’s new safety legislation;
  • Elimination of administrative barriers for services in Argentina;
  • Removal of restrictions on copper and aluminium scrap, and paper in Turkey;
  • Removal of animal and plant health and hygiene barriers related to bovine exports from some EU Member States to China, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan;
  • Elimination of certain restrictions on poultry exports from some EU Member States to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Background

The Report on Trade and Investment Barriers is fully based on concrete complaints received by the Commission from European companies. It has been published annually since the beginning of the 2008 economic crisis.

In recent months the Commission has also launched Market Access Days in Member States in order to raise awareness amongst smaller companies of how the EU can help address the barriers they face.

Following the publication of the Report on the Protection and Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in February, this is the second enforcement related report released by the Commission in 2018. Later this year the Commission will publish an Implementation Report of the different trade agreements in place.

In its “Trade for All” strategy, the Commission has made enforcement of trade rules a top priority along with a sharper focus on the implementation of trade agreements, so that our companies can compete on a level playing field when seeking export and investment opportunities in third countries. The EU has the tools and uses them to eliminate trade barriers, bring dispute settlement action, and impose trade defence measures in cases of unfair trade.

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New Satellite Data Reveals Progress: Global Gas Flaring Declined in 2017

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New satellite data released today shows a significant decline in gas flaring at oil production sites around the world in 2017, despite a half-percent increase in global oil production. The nearly 5 percent flaring decline begins to reverse years of increases in global gas flaring that started in 2010.

The data reveals about 141 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas was flared in 2017, down from nearly 148 bcm in 2016. While Russia remains the world’s largest gas flaring country, it also saw the largest decline in flaring last year. Venezuela and Mexico also reduced their flaring significantly in 2017. In Iran and Libya there were notable increases in gas flaring.

The data was released by the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), a World Bank-managed organization comprised of governments, oil companies, and international institutions working to reduce gas flaring. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and GGFR have developed the flaring estimates in cooperation with the University of Colorado, based on observations from advanced sensors in a satellite launched in 2012.

Gas flaring – the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction – takes place because of technical, regulatory, and/or economic constraints. It causes more than 350 million tons of CO2 emissions every year, with serious harmful impacts from un-combusted methane and black carbon emissions. Gas flaring is also a substantial waste of energy resources the world can ill afford.

“The latest global gas flaring data is encouraging, but we will have to wait a few more years to know whether it represents a much-needed turning point,” said Riccardo Puliti, the World Bank’s Senior Director and head of its Energy & Extractives Global Practice. “Ending routine gas flaring is a key component of our climate change mitigation agenda, and the global flaring reduction Initiative we launched just three years ago now has 77 endorsers, covering about 60 percent of the total gas flared around the world.”

In 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and 25 initial endorsers launched the “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” Initiative that commits endorsers to not routinely flare gas in new oil field developments and to seek solutions to end routine flaring at existing oil production sites as soon as possible and no later than 2030. It has now been endorsed by 27 governments, 35 oil companies, and 15 development institutions.

“The Initiative is an essential tool for ending routine flaring,” said Bjorn Hamso, GGFR’s Program Manager. “Going forward, it is paramount that oil field operators continue to address ongoing “legacy” flaring, and that new business models are developed that will enable more investors to participate in flaring reduction projects.”

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World Tourism Day Places Focus on Innovation & Digital Transformation

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The importance of digital technologies in tourism, providing opportunities for innovation and preparing the sector for the future of work, is at the centre of World Tourism Day 2018, to be celebrated in Budapest, Hungary (27 September 2018).

World Tourism Day, celebrated every 27 September around the world, is a unique opportunity to raise awareness on tourism’s actual and potential contribution to sustainable development.

This year’s World Tourism Day (WTD) will help to put the opportunities provided to tourism, by technological advances including big data, artificial intelligence and digital platforms, on the map of sustainable development. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sees digital advances and innovation as part of the solution to the challenge of marrying continued growth with a more sustainable and responsible tourism sector.

“Harnessing innovation and digital advances provides tourism with opportunities to improve inclusiveness, local community empowerment and efficient resource management, amongst other objectives within the wider sustainable development agenda”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

The WTD official celebration will be held in Budapest, Hungary, a country enjoying steady growth of tourism backed by consistent policy support and a commitment to the digital future. Other celebrations will take place worldwide.

The official celebration will also see the announcement of the semi-finalists of the 1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition, launched by UNWTO and Globalia to give visibility to startups with innovative ideas capable of revolutionizing the way we travel and enjoy tourism.

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EU and China step up cooperation on climate change and clean energy

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At the China-EU Summit on 16 July in Beijing, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the Council, Donald Tusk, and the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang adopted a “Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change and Clean Energy”. Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and the Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation on emissions trading between China and the EU.

In the Leaders’ Statement, China and the EU underline the need to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC process, and to get the Paris Agreement Work Programme – the rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement – adopted at the next global climate conference in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

The Statement shows how the EU and China will intensify their political, technical, economic and scientific cooperation on climate change and clean energy to drive forward a world-wide transformation to a thriving low carbon and climate-resilient economy and society and clean energy system. It clearly shows their commitment to climate action and achieving a clean energy transition are urgent imperatives.

In the Memorandum of Understanding China and the EU acknowledge emissions trading as a cost-effective policy tool with significant potential to contribute to a low-carbon economy and the necessary innovation and deployment of low carbon technologies.

Welcoming this commitment, President Juncker said: We have underlined our joint, strong determination to fight climate change and demonstrate global leadership. It shows our commitment to multilateralism and recognises that climate change is a global challenge affecting all countries on earth. There is no time for us to sit back and watch passively. Now is the time for decisive action.

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: Further developing cooperation between the two largest emission trading systems of the world is not only in our mutual interest but also necessary to tackle common challenges in the mid- and longer term. The newly established policy dialogue will be instrumental in this context.

The Memorandum of Understanding on EU-China cooperation on emissions trading establishes a policy dialogue, foresees the joint organisation of seminars and workshops, as well as joint research activities.

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