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European wine companies urge EU to harvest trade benefits

  • Wine is the largest EU agricultural export, worth €8.9 billion a year and contributing a €6.4 billion surplus to the EU’s trade balance
  • Despite the launch of a myriad bilateral trade negotiations since the demise of the Doha round, only four FTAs have been concluded and protectionist barriers are proliferating in key world markets
  • The EU must prioritise market access for this key strategic sector for Europe

Brussels, 3 October 2013 - With less than one year of the Barroso II Commission’s mandate left, the European wine industry met in Brussels today to take stock of the EU Trade Policy achievements to date and challenges ahead for this sector, which is the biggest EU agricultural exporter - with annual exports amounting to €8.9 billion, the EU Wine industry contributes a surplus of €6.4 billion to the EU balance of trade (2012).

Over the last years the EU has embarked on a myriad bilateral negotiations to achieve free trade agreements with third countries. Among the 15 priority markets that are relevant for EU wine exports (see Notes to Editors), the EU has concluded agreements only with South Korea (in force since 1 July 2011) Singapore (concluded in December 2012), Central America, and Colombia - Peru (2012-2013); all the other negotiations have not been concluded yet.

In the meantime EU wine exporters are continuously facing the proliferation of unilateral protectionist barriers in key export markets. These are often part of recovery packages or unjustified retaliatory practices, with discriminatory impacts on European wines.

As a result, the current prospects for the growth of European wine exports are problematic.  Prohibitive import tariffs are still in place in India and Vietnam; our products still face discriminatory treatment in Canada and Thailand; endless bureaucratic barriers in Russia; major markets such as the US fail to give sufficient protection to geographical indications (GIs). Last but not least, our products have been taken hostage of bilateral tensions between the EU and China, with the launch of an unjustified retaliatory antidumping investigation this summer. 

 “The potential for our exports to these key markets is jeopardized by protectionist policies that need to be tackled through more vigorous political and diplomatic efforts and ambitious trade negotiations, with a focus on true priority issues and markets,” declared Jean-Marie Barillère, President of CEEV.

 “The instrumentalisation of the wine sector in trade disputes, as is currently the case with China, is particularly regrettable at a time of global economic turmoil. Our sector needs the determined support of the European Commission and the Member States at the highest political level. We urge the Commission to look without delay for a political solution to a trade dispute that has political roots, and to solve trade tensions through stepped up dialogue and negotiation, concluded Mr Barillère.

Wine deserves a place among the EU’s top trade policy priorities. The EU wine sector is a unique economic asset to Europe, with deep social and cultural roots, that cannot be delocalized. Thus EU trade policy achievements translate directly into European jobs. Opening up more market opportunities for the largest EU agricultural export sector must surely be a top strategic priority for both EU agriculture and trade policy, particularly at a time when our economies struggle to recover and unemployment remains the bane of our society. We need the full support of the European institutions, added José Ramón Fernandez, CEEV Secretary General.

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