Following the accession to the EEC of the UK and Denmark, both former European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members, free trade agreements were concluded between the Community and the EFTA countries in order to avoid the erection of new obstacles to trade. These bilateral agreements have been replaced, since 1st January 1994, by the Treaty on the European Economic Area (EEA), which brings together the Member States of the EC/EU with Norway, Iceland and the Liechtenstein in a vast economic zone guaranteeing, guaranteeing not only free trade proper to a customs union, but also the fundamental freedoms of a common market [see section 25.1].
The Union opens autonomous tariff quotas at preferential duty rates within the limits of appropriate volumes in order to secure the supply situation of the Member States for certain agricultural and industrial products [Regulation 7/2010, last amended by Regulation 627/2013]. For the same reason, and also in many cases with the aim of encouraging European industry to use or introduce new technology, the Council temporarily suspends, every year, duties on about 1800 products or groups of products, mainly chemicals and products of the electronics or aircraft industries [Regulation 1255/96]. Tariffs are also suspended on a number of agricultural and fishery products, to improve the supply of certain types of food and to honour preferential commitments entered into with certain non-member countries. A Regulation establishes the rules governing the administration of quantitative import and export quotas, whether autonomous or conventional, established by the European Community/Union [Regulation 717/2008].
The legislation on preferential tariff measures resulting from agreements concluded between the EU and States or groups of States, with which contractual relations are maintained, has been consolidated in a comprehensive multiannual form [Regulation 1255/96]. European exporters operating from one or more Member States may request a single authorisation to export under the provisions governing preferential trade between the European Community/Union and certain countries [Regulation 952/2013].
As part of its development aid policy, the European Union applies generalised tariff preferences to imports from developing countries [Regulation 978/2012, last amended by Regulation 2015/1979, see section 24.5]. To the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP), signatories of the Cotonou Agreement, the EU grants free access to the near-totality of their exports, with the exception of textile products and of the agricultural products that are subject to common market organisations of the common agricultural policy [Regulation 1528/2007, last amended by Regulation 1027/2014, see section 24.2].
The full application of CCT is thus limited to trade with the United States of America, Canada, Japan, Australia and a few other developed countries [see section 5.2.3]. Although CCT has become less important, customs union, supported by the instruments of trade policy, which accompany it, ensures sufficient protection for efficient industrial producers in all Member States. As mentioned above, however, close cooperation between national administrations, organised by the Commission, is needed to prevent infringements of customs rules and other conditions for access to the Union market [see section 5.1.4]. Priority areas include fraud prevention, protection of intellectual property rights - particularly trade marks, designs and copyright - and measures to combat counterfeiting [see section 23.2.2].