The Treaty on the functioning of the EU states that the common commercial policy shall be based on uniform principles, inter alia, concerning export policy, but does not define this policy (Article 207 TFEU). It relies on the European Parliament and the Council, acting by means of regulations in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, to adopt the measures defining the framework for implementing this, as the other aspects, of the common commercial policy.
EU exports to third countries are free or, in other words, are not subject to quantitative restrictions, with the exception of a few products for certain Member States and of petroleum oil and gases for all the Member States [Regulation 2015/479]. However, when exceptional market trends, which cause scarcity of an essential product, justify protective measures in the opinion of a Member State, it can set in motion the European information and consultation procedure. Consultations take place within an Advisory Committee and cover notably the conditions and terms of exports and, if necessary, the measures which should be adopted.
The Commission contributes from the Union Budget [see section 3.4] to export promotion and notably to closer cooperation at European level and to research for joint action in favour of European exports (international exhibitions, trade forums, conferences, seminars) in coordination with European programmes and with Member States' export promotion programmes. The cooperation with trade federations and with national export promotion organisations pursues two aims: first of all, to ensure that any activities on a particular market strengthen the European dimension and secondly, to focus activities on a number of target countries, the list of which is topped by China, Japan, the countries of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) [see section 25.6] and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe [see section 25.2].
A Union budget heading covers the Commission’s strategy to improve access for European businesses to other countries’ markets, such as identification and analysis of trade barriers in other countries, the establishment and development of databases and the dissemination of information on trade barriers, studies concerning the implementation by other countries of their obligations under international trade agreements and the production of information packs on the legal and economic aspects of removing these barriers [Decision 98/552]. A financing instrument aims at enhancing cooperation with industrialised and other high-income countries, including Japan and the USA, in particular in the following areas: stimulation of bilateral trade, investment flows and economic partnerships; promotion of dialogue between political, economic and social actors and non-governmental organisations in the European Union and partner countries; and promotion of people-to-people links, education and training programmes [Regulation 1934/2006, last amended by Regulation 1338/2011].
As regards export credits, the European Union applies ''the arrangement'' concluded in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and providing guidelines for officially supported export credits [Regulation 1233/2011, last amended by Regulation 2016/155]. These guidelines confine official support to the interest rates for export credits to certain countries. Concerning export credit insurance for transactions with medium- and long-term cover, a Directive aims to harmonise the various public systems for such insurance in order to prevent distortion of competition among EU firms [Directive 98/29]. It lays down the common principles which must be observed by export credit insurers and which concern the constituents of cover (scope of cover, causes of loss and exclusions of liability and indemnification of claims), premiums, country cover policy and notification procedures.
Should the European market be in a critical situation due to a lack of essential products and should the interests of the EU demand immediate action, the Commission, at the request of a Member State or acting on its own initiative, can make exports subject to the granting of an export authorisation, issued if certain provisions and restrictions defined by it, while waiting for a Council Decision, are satisfied. The Council can uphold or invalidate the Commission's Decision, in light of the international commitments of the Union or of all its Member States, notably as regards trade in primary products. Quantitative export restrictions can be limited to specific destinations or to the exports of certain regions of the EU. They must give due consideration to the volume of contracts concluded at normal terms, before bringing in a protective measure. Export restrictions may depend on political or security reasons. Thus, special rules apply to the export and import of dangerous chemicals and pesticides [Regulation 304/2003]. The objective of Regulation 304/2003 is also to ensure that the provisions of Directive 67/548 [replaced by Regulation 1272/2008] and of Directive 1999/45 [replaced by Regulation 1272/2008] regarding the classification, packaging and labelling of chemicals dangerous to man or to the environment when they are placed on the market in the European Union shall also apply to all such chemicals when they are exported from the Member States to other Parties or other countries.
Whereas customs tariffs diminish thanks to the Uruguay Round and the rules of the World Trade Organisation impose in principle the freedom of international exchanges, European companies are still faced with obstacles to trade and investment in a large number of countries. The European Union has the necessary power to redress these situations; but its Member States must lend a supporting hand in combating trade barriers by joining forces with the European Commission. Having asked Member States and business circles to inform it on the most persistent trade and investment barriers on the main export markets, the Commission established an ongoing inventory of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods and services and the progress made towards removing them in the form of an interactive electronic database on market access accessible to businessmen via the Europa server on the Internet.