Natural stone supplier Marin Baturov is one of the many European companies benefitting from EU trade deals. The company’s trade with Japan has increased significantly since the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement came into force in February 2019. Founded 25 years ago, they have experience of trading with Japan both before and after the agreement came into force. For the Bulgarian firm, the practical benefits of the trade agreement are tangible in their exports to the region. “Japan has very strict customs controls, but the partnership agreement has eased this barrier for EU exporters. One of the biggest improvements for European businesses is the reduction in paperwork”, says Irina Gueorguieva, Export Manager at Marin Baturov.
Small companies like Marin Baturov support over 13 million jobs in Europe through their exports. However, too few of Europe’s small and medium sized companies (SMEs) harness the benefits of EU trade agreements. Out of the 25 million SMEs in the European Union, only 26% exported their goods or services in 2019, and most stayed within European markets.
Making use of the EU’s trade agreements can transform a business – boosting growth and unlocking new opportunities overseas. The EU’s large network of preferential trade agreements applied can make all the difference by driving export performance, building resilience and diversifying supply chains.
Two main challenges faced by SMEs to access international markets are the costs of entering new markets and the access to information. The cost of entering a new market weighs more heavily on SMEs than on larger firms. Establishment, conformity assessment, authorisation of products, recognition of professional qualifications, and other requirements may have the same nominal costs but they have a greater impact on SMEs who have fewer resources for internationalisation. The same asymmetries apply to access to information about market access opportunities (such as laws and regulations in foreign markets, different national technical standards, difficult paperwork). Large companies may be able to afford legal and economic advice on regulatory requirements, but this is more difficult for SMEs.
The European Commission has taken a major step towards improving access to information on trade agreements with the launch in October 2020 of its new Access2Markets online portal. One year on the portal has reached 1,8 million unique visitors highlighting the success of the portal and its usefulness for SMEs. The fact that many parts are multilingual is particularly helpful for SMEs.
“The European Union has over 45 trade agreements with over 70 countries and regions. Access2Markets breaks the complex rules and conditions down into practical information, granting smaller firms easier access to the trade agreements and their benefits. EU exporters of goods and services can find out about preferential terms they may be entitled to and how to unleash them”, says Denis Redonnet, the European Commission’s Chief Trade Enforcement Officer.
Access2markets allows companies to look up specific details on imported and exported goods, including on tariffs, taxes, rules of origin, product requirements, customs procedures, trade barriers and trade flow statistics.
The portal hosts information on rules of origin for all EU partner countries and has a function to compare the rules across various agreements and products. The integrated Rules of Origin Self- Assessment tool (ROSA) allows companies to assess whether their product complies with the respective rules of origin and guides them on how to apply the rules specific to their product and export destination so that their product can possibly benefit from the preferential tariff rate. The tool includes clear explanations and examples of how to qualify for origin and how to use for instance cumulation. To make life easier for companies, ROSA contains clear instructions on the documentation required as proof of origin to obtain tariff preferences. The Commission registers around 500 daily assessments in ROSA.
Access2Markets has detailed information for companies about all EU trade agreements. One example is the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement
Trade deals are about more than slashed duties. For example, the name of some European regions is synonymous with particular specialist foods and beverages. The EU grants Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status to ensure that only cheese from Gorgonzola in Italy, or sparkling wine from Champagne in France can use their region’s name in branding and marketing. The same is true for Topoloveni Magiun, a plum jam from Romania’s Topoloveni region. For Sonimpex, the manufacturer, this added protection makes trade agreements a deciding factor when considering new markets. That is because EU trade deals include PGIs which offer a legal safeguard against unfair competition.
The success of Access2Markets
Access2Markets has up to 10,000 daily users. The statistics speak for themselves but the portal’s success was also underlined earlier this year when, in a major vote of confidence, Access2Markets won the public vote for the EU Ombudsman’s award for good administration.
The user satisfaction also transpired from a survey among businesses and organisations across the EU who were asked for their practical experiences using the Access2Markets portal and how they have benefitted. The resulting testimonials were overwhelmingly positive and touched on its ease of use and up-to-date information.
Organisation: Association of Industrial Poultry, Bulgaria
“We strongly recommend the Access2markets platform to our members because it is very useful and easy to work with. On this portal, our members find all the tools they need for exporting such as information on rules of origins, the required certifications and documents, statistics, tips, etc. In other words, this tool is a shortcut to success.” Daniel Bozhankov, President.
Access2Markets helps European SMEs export and import the simple way, providing businesses with the tools necessary to navigate a digitalised world – empowering them to trade internationally. Thanks to EU’s trade agreements, EU SMEs can increasingly carry out important parts of the export and import process online, saving a lot of time on paperwork and reducing courier costs significantly. Previously companies needed to send hard-copy documents separately via costly international couriers. Now it takes just a few clicks of a mouse.