EU Retaliates by Targeting US goods

aviationThe European Union has picked up President Donald Trump’s tariffs challenge and is considering responding with trade countermeasures. The WTO rules afford its members the possibility to impose temporary levies as safeguard. At the same time, it allows its members to retaliate proportionately in case the new trade restrictions are not adequately compensated within 90 days.

The European Commission is ready to exercise these retaliatory policies against the announced tariffs by the US administration, namely 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. Experts estimate that the tariffs to be imposed by President Trump could affect €6bn in steel and aluminum exports. While the EU still hopes to avoid a full-blown trade war, European Commission officials have already presented EU member states with €2.8bn list of more than 100 US products that could be affected.

The retaliation would likely affect a variety of products from sensitive Republican-dominated states, such as cosmetics and clothing, Harley-Davidson motorbikes, orange juice from Florida and bourbon-whiskey from Kentucky. This list is on hold for the time being and it would require the approval by EU member states.

EU Towards New Rules on Air-Carriers

aviationAll stakeholders and citizens with an interest in aviation are called to contribute to the recently commenced consultations that will culminate in the reform of the 2008 Regulation on air services. The revised Regulation is aimed on ensuring fair competition among EU air carriers and on protecting workers and consumers from unfair commercial practices by non-EU operators.
Notwithstanding that the need for modernisation of the existing framework is widely acknowledged, the aviation industry is concerned about the ever-increasing costs of compliance as well as the complexity of the overall regulations. The proposed reform is a source for concern for small and medium carriers in the EU, criticised for being overly centralised and disregarding local realities. Additionally, non-EU carriers have already vocalised their opposition to new hurdles erected on their access to the EU market.

The skepticism aroused by the initiative makes sure that the public consultations will be the terrain of intense clash of interests, while all stakeholders will struggle to strike a good deal.

EU Eyeing New Restriction on Plastics

Starting from January 2018, China notified the WTO that it will ban the importing of 24 categories of waste, including plastics and mixed papers, on grounds of environmental and public health protection.

The domino effect of the world’s biggest waste processor has already affected China’s biggest client, the European Union, which used to ship approximately 60% of plastics and 13% of paper collected for recycling.

Following the Chinese ban, the EU is now considering several options that include unpopular new taxes, limits on plastic bags and a set of other standards and rules. The new measures will try to encourage the re-use of plastics, ensure that plastics packaging is fully recyclable and make the disposal of plastics economically burdensome. In addition, the European Commission is considering imposing new quality standards via new consumer labeling. Finally, the proposal is set to target water polluting plastics that are increasingly becoming a serious health concern.

More EU Burdens on Household Devices

household deviceOn February 2018, the European Commission has invited all interested parties to submit their views on the energy efficiency and eco-labelling of a series of commonly used electric and electronic devices. The European Commission, welcomes the views of stakeholders and citizens alike on the eco-design of refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, household lamps, televisions and computers. The public consultations will inform the ongoing evaluation and will result in the preparation of regulations specific to each product category.

Despite the positive objective to contribute to the energy efficiency and create a level playing field for EU manufacturers of such devices, the new initiative has already shown its dark side. The EU industry is afraid that it will take another hard-financial beating due to increased compliance costs and so are EU consumers. Non-EU manufacturers need to constantly adjust to an ever increasing in complexity matrix of environmental regulations that makes their access to the EU market difficult.

The open consultations will last until May 2018 and the results which will be published shortly after will shape the market of household devices.

Germany Bans Diesel Cars

Banning diesel cars from German cities is a legitimate tool to improve air quality and protect public health according to Germany’s Federal Administrative Court. Precisely how many vehicles might be affected by the ban remains unclear, since diesel technology has long been the locomotive of the global automotive industry. Debate on the excessive amount of nitrogen oxides in the air has prevailed for years but the political dimensions of the issue started only recently.
While the ban in Germany will be gradual, it entails tremendous pressure on an industry that has already burned its subsidies options. Additionally, it requires huge effort and resources to enforce the ban from the authorities. The judgment could trigger a domino effect not only in Germany, but throughout the whole Europe, with cities like Rome, Paris, Madrid, London and Athens already heading in this direction.

While everybody is puzzled on how the ban will be enforced, the industry has stepped up its efforts to adapt. Additionally, the European Commission is considering the possibilities of a pan- European approach.

EU Declares War on Piracy

In January 2018, the European Commission signaled the beginning of public consultations aiming on mapping out markets, which thrive by the abuse of intellectual property rights. The initiative is a first step in a series of escalating responses to a form of organised fraud amounting to a 5% of the total imports to the EU and resulting in damages exceeding the 85bn € for EU producers annually. The EU black list will be followed by custom controls and legislative efforts to crack down on pirates as well as consumer awareness campaigns.

The initiative, however, has raised many eyebrows worldwide, amidst rumours related to the targeting of specific competitive to the EU markets. Specifically, manufacturers from China as well as certain Balkan countries feel pinned down by the impending reforms. Furthermore, serious concerns have been raised on the effect that overly restrictive regulations might have on products considered ‘similar’ or ‘substitutes’.

One thing though is certain, that the new rules will affect a considerable part of the global market.

Alber & Geiger Recognised as Top Lobbying Firm

aviationAfter a record number of entries for 2017, the finalists for the EU Public Affairs Awards have finally been revealed. Building on the success of the previous year, the second round of the most prestigious lobbying event took place this November in Brussels.

Once again, we have made an impact. Our team’s enthusiasm and dedication made the difference, vindicating nominations in four categories, namely: Lobbying Firm of the Year, Top Member States Lobbyists, Best Lobbyists in the EU Parliament and Lobbying Campaign of the Year. Alber & Geiger was the clear winner in the Lobbying Member States category for its ability to deliver business opportunities and policy solutions to clients in several jurisdictions. The judges highlighted our ability to shape legislation in Member States and activate Member States for EU-level advocacy efforts.

The new recognition of our efforts inspires us to step up our work and get things done faster and more efficiently. We are a success story in government affairs and our clients trust fuels our efforts for constant improvement of our services.

EU to Tackle ‘Fake News’

aviationAmidst increasing complaints, mainly from small and medium market players, the European Commission is launching a series of initiatives to promote fairness in platform to business relations. The initiative is part of a wider strategy to promote transparency and fairness in the Digital Single Market, including countering the recent scourge of fake news.

Social media are gaining ground from printing press as a source of information for an increasing number of citizens. The tidal wave of malicious propaganda and fake news is a huge source of unregulated revenues and poses a direct threat to businesses, business models and consumers alike. Recognizing that the current pattern of news reporting is not sustainable, the European Commission has called for a counter initiative on misinformation with an alignment of policy, legislative and technological measures.

The new strategy is seeking to find a balance between fundamental political and economic rights and the citizen’s right to access reliable information, while it’s expected to raise the regulatory stakes for major online platforms in case they refuse to comply and cooperate. The European Commission has launched public consultations exploring the scope of future actions and it appears willing to adopt an aggressive strategy to tackle fake news by recently allocating funds to the taskforce countering online disinformation. The proposals will most likely not only affect social media operators but also businesses.

EU to Approve Rules for Gas Pipelines

telecomunication The EU has launched a final call to arms to complete the existing Gas Directive and clarify the EU energy principles by common rules for gas pipelines, which enter the internal gas market. The objective is to step up efforts to maintain viable alternative gas transit flows after failing to derail the Nord Stream 2 link. The new rules are about to apply to existing and future, domestic and offshore pipelines alike.

The initiative is an attempted response to concerns over the increasing EU energy dependency, which is only expected to be exacerbated over the coming years. The amendment of the Energy Package is expected to ensure that all major pipelines in the EU, or entering EU territory, are operated under the same transparency regime and are accessible to all other operators. This approach is believed to maximise competition and avoid conflicts of interest between operators, ensuring at the same time the resilience of the EU’s gas supplies as well as fair prices.

The present proposal delineates the EU’s attempt to break specific energy export monopolies, providing a new incentive for existing and potential competitors to commence negotiations with the EU. Despite, the business as usual appearances, the proposal shuffles the cards in the ongoing energy game in the EU. Moreover, it is likely to trigger heated reactions in an attempt to open up the energy market to new business opportunities by diversifying the energy sector and reducing dependency on imports.

EU to Tax Tech Giants

aviationThe European Commission is going ahead with plans for a fair taxation regime on digital giants, aiming to balance the low tax regimes that cost EU governments billions of Euros in foregone revenues. The objective of the initiative is to define a fair, efficient and growth friendly approach to the taxation of digital economy.

The current regime is not attuned to the digital era. Rather, it was mainly designed for traditional economies and does not capture activities based on intangible assets and data. Digital firms nowadays are taxed mainly on profits declared in fiscal havens and low tax regimes. That has infuriated many EU Member States due to their inability to impose a more equitable taxation based on the companies revenues. The new plan is designed to force mainly major tech firms to start paying revenue tax in any country that their activities are taking place. Furthermore, in accordance to the OECD standards, some Member States have proposed an additional withholding and an equalization tax.

There are concerns on whether this is the right approach to solve this multi-billion puzzle. Amidst questions on the effects on competition, many believe that a targeted crack down on leading tech firms is doomed to fail. In addition, drawing analogies from corporate taxation regimes to the digital economy can impede growth and drive away digital giants. Regardless, all financial ministers have acknowledged the existing issue and have agreed to proceed together to the drafting of a new proposal. With increasing and vocal opposition, reaching a common understanding seems like an arduous effort and currently all options are open to debate.