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Summaries of EU Legislation

Protection against trade barriers

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Protection against trade barriers


Regulation (EC) No 3286/94 – procedures to ensure the exercise of the EU's rights under international trade rules, in particular those established under the auspices of the World Trade Organization



  • It establishes a procedure enabling businesses and EU countries to request the EU institutions to examine any trade barriers* put in place by non-EU countries in order to safeguard the interests of EU companies and workers.
  • It seeks to eliminate injury* or adverse trade effects* resulting from such trade barriers in accordance with international trade rules.


  • Complaints under this regulation may be lodged on behalf of an EU industry, on behalf of one or more EU companies or by an EU country pointing to an obstacle to trade. The complaint must contain sufficient evidence of the existence of the trade barriers and of the resulting injury or adverse trade effects.
  • Complaints must be submitted to the European Commission in writing. The Commission has 45 days to decide if a complaint is admissible. This period may be suspended at the request of the complainant so that more information can be added.
  • An advisory committee made up of representatives of each EU country and chaired by the Commission provides those countries with information. It is also a forum where they can express their opinions.
  • If a complaint is deemed admissible, an examination is initiated and announced in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJ). This announcement indicates the product or service and countries concerned. The Commission then gathers all the relevant information from the parties involved.

Where, based on this examination procedure, the EU decides to take action, any commercial policy measures may be taken which are compatible with existing international obligations and procedures. In particular, it may:

  • 1.

    suspend tariff concessions* and impose new or increased customs duties;

  • 2.

    introduce or increase quantitative restrictions on imports or exports of goods;

  • 3.

    suspend concessions regarding goods, services or suppliers in the area of public procurement.

The Council must rule on the Commission proposal to take one or more of the actions above within 30 days.

In 2014, the EU amended the Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 654/2014) adding new rules and procedures. These ensure that the EU can exercise its rights to suspend or withdraw concessions or other obligations under international trade agreements more effectively and rapidly.

The Commission can adopt acts taking action against non-EU countries in cases of urgent need. These implementing acts are immediately applicable and this procedure can only be used in duly justified cases. Measures that may be enacted by means of an implementing act include the three cited above.


Regulation (EC) No 3286/94 has applied since 1 January 1995. Regulation (EU) No 654/2014 has applied since 17 July 2014.


Trade barrier investigations


* Trade barrier: any trade practice adopted by a non-EU country but prohibited by international trade rules which gives a party affected by the practice a right to seek to have the effect of that practice eliminated. These international trade rules are essentially those of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and those set out in bilateral agreements with non-EU countries to which the EU is a party.

* Injury: any material injury which an obstacle to trade threatens to cause to an EU industry on the market of the EU.

* Adverse trade effects: effects that an obstacle to trade causes or threatens to cause, in respect of a product or service, to EU businesses on the market of any non-EU country.

* Concessions or other obligations: tariff concessions or any other benefits that the EU has committed itself to applying in its trade with non-EU countries by virtue of international trade agreements to which it is a party.


Council Regulation (EC) No 3286/94 of 22 December 1994 laying down Community procedures in the field of the common commercial policy in order to ensure the exercise of the Community’s rights under international trade rules, in particular those established under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (OJ L 349, 31.12.1994, pp. 71–78)

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 3286/94 have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference only.

last update 30.11.2015