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Summary: January 11, 2005: EU Trade Commissioner seeks trade measures to relieve tsunami victims (Brussels)
EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson today said that the EU was actively considering ways to use EU trade policy to provide relief for regions and businesses affected by the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Mr. Mandelson said “I want to find ways to assist people and businesses hit by the tsunami. The localised nature of the damage poses real challenges in ensuring that relief hits the target, but there are trade measures we can use to assist rebuilding in the countries affected by the disaster, notably by speeding up measures to improve their access to our markets.”
As far as immediate trade measures are concerned, the European Commission’s delegations in affected countries are working to identify businesses that are affected by EU trade defence measures such as anti-dumping duties. These could be reviewed with the possibility of suspending them.
The European Commission will also consider ways of re-orienting its trade related assistance to affected countries in order to help businesses boost exports. For example, helping affected businesses to comply with sanitary and food safety standards would be a way to offer valuable assistance in increasing exports.
In the medium term, the European Commission will consider ways to fast-track the adoption and implementation of its new Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme which provides preferential access to imports from vulnerable developing countries. Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and India will be among the greatest beneficiaries of the new regime. Under the new system Sri Lanka for example, will receive duty free access to the EU for almost all its GSP exports including on its vital textile and clothing exports. India, Indonesia and Thailand will benefit from reduced duties and wider product coverage, especially on crucial seafood exports.
In parallel, the European Commission will seek to accelerate discussion on simplification and appropriate relaxation of rules of origin to help regions such as ASEAN benefit from cumulated preferential access to the EU market.
Whilst the EU cannot make tariff concession for individual countries without contravening WTO rules, the European Commission is ready to support WTO-wide initiatives to agree on tariff concessions for the affected countries.