The framework was approved by the European Parliament on 2 April

The framework was approved by the European Parliament on 2 April

The European Commission has welcomed a new legal framework designed to better enforce EU rights under international trade agreements and maker it easier to impose sanctions.

The framework, approved by the European Parliament on 2 April and by the EU Council today (13 May), will allow for a more effective response to illegal measures taken by its trading partners.

The Commission says it gives the EU a "single horizontal framework" to "react swiftly and effectively" to ensure trade agreements translate into benefits for EU businesses and workers.

"These new enforcement rules will help us ensure that trade agreements are respected and deliver benefits for the EU economy," said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. "The EU is now better equipped to take action when other countries don't play by the rules."

Under the new framework, if a WTO panel or a dispute settlement panel, finds an EU partner country not abiding by international trade rules, the Commission will be able to adopt trade sanctions under a streamlined procedure without the lengthy legislative procedures of the past.

Sanctions may include increased customs duties, import quotas or limitations on access to public contracts in the EU. The Commission will also have legal powers to compensate for import restrictions imposed on EU products in exceptional situations or to react to cases in which a WTO member raises its import tariffs without adequate compensation for the EU.

The new regulation follows the objective set out in the Commission Communication 'Trade, growth and world affairs', endorsed by the Council in December 2010. At that time, the EU committed to step up its efforts to enforce its rights under bilateral and multilateral agreements to open markets that are closed illegally.