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EU to form trade barrier warning system

The European Union said Wednesday it will set up an early warning system to watch for foreign trade barriers that it says prevent European companies from exporting to growing markets.

It said it would ask EU delegations and national embassies throughout the world to work with businesses to identify unfair obstacles to their trade in other countries such as national technical rules that effectively shut out foreigners - citing Mexican legislation on diesel car emissions that did not recognize EU standards and Ukraine's high fees for imported pharmaceuticals. Some of this reporting is already happening in practice, the EU's executive arm said in a document, but it needs to be more systemic to react to draft rules as they emerge, allowing Europeans to apply diplomatic pressure to tackle barriers quickly and efficiently. „EU business relies on growing markets abroad to fuel economic growth and jobs at home. We need to ensure that European companies are able to compete fairly in those markets,” said EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

The European Commission said European companies have never been more dependent on getting access to foreign markets and are seeking to succeed in emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and Russia. But barriers to trade are changing, meaning that international talks to lift tariffs and import duties do not clear away all the ways governments try to shield local manufacturers from foreign rivalry. The EU said there was a difference between unnecessary barriers to trade and rules that could be justified to protect security, health or the environment. Real obstacles businesses face include burdensome customs procedures, discriminatory tax rules and practices and technical regulators that were not in line with WTO rules, it said.

It also repeated its opposition to restrictive government procurement rules that stop EU companies bidding for public contracts abroad, poor protection of intellectual property rights and unfair use of state subsidies. The EU's largest business lobby, BusinessEurope, said it saw the new strategy as crucial because it had to give European companies better market access in high-growth emerging companies. But a spokesman for the British Conservative group at the European Parliament said the EU should also help developing nations held back by Europe's own stringent technical barriers to trade. „Entrepreneurs from developing countries want to sell their goods on the European market, but they say the technical restrictions are too complex for them to understand,” said EU lawmaker Syed Kamall. „Surely we should also seek to help others overcome the multitude of barriers we have created ourselves.” (