EU Report on Rising Trade Barriers Underlines Need for International Cooperation

Cross-border movement of goods and services is the foundation of modern global trade. Over the past years, however, trade and investment barriers have been increasing, a recent report by the European Commission says.


The report identified 43 new barriers in 22 countries in the course of 2019, signalling a continued trend towards protectionism around the world. Especially China, Russia, the United States, and the Mediterranean and Middle East region have developed new barriers which complicate trade of European companies with those countries. The group of countries with the largest number of barriers overall has remained the same since 2018, comprising China, Russia, Indonesia, the United States, India and Turkey.


The European Commission’s report shows that technical barriers to trade represent a substantial proportion of the 438 trade and investment barriers recorded in the EU’s Market Access Database (MADP). The number of barriers has risen particularly in sectors of strategic importance – such as information and communication technology, electronics, automotive and other high-tech industries.

The geographical breakdown of trade and investment barriers in the MADP shows the number of trade barriers per country (source: Report from the Commission to the Parliament and the Council on Trade and Investment Barriers, 2020).

The report shows the EU’s initiatives to reduce barriers to trade, for example through diplomatic action, dispute settlement at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and Free Trade Agreements (FTA). In 2019, the EU could fully or partially remove 40 barriers through these efforts.


The increasing trend of trade barriers makes international cooperation even more important. Through the Global Project Quality Infrastructure (GPQI), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) engages in technical and political dialogues with Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and Mexico to reduce technical barriers to trade, enhance product safety, and strengthen consumer protection. Germany thereby complements the EU’s endeavour to reduce technical barriers to trade. BMWi has commissioned the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH – the German Agency for International Cooperation – to support the implementation of the GPQI.

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