The European Union (EU) plans to step up efforts to remove non-tariff measures that impede the flow of global commerce, trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said this week when presenting a new trade strategy blueprint for the 27-member bloc.

While cutting tariffs is still important, De Gucht said the majority of barriers now lie elsewhere.

Part of the challenge in enhancing market access, he said, lies in overcoming non-tariff measures and ensuring better protection for intellectual property rights.

The blueprint, 'Trade, Growth and World affairs,' says costs faced by European exporters of textiles and apparel to the US because of  non-tariff measures were equivalent to a tariff of 16.7%. And the cost for American exporters to the EU were equivalent to a tariff of 19.2%.

Non-tariff measures that hinder textiles and apparel trade flows include diverging technical standards, including differences over measuring and testing of products, rules of origin, labelling, and environmental regulations.

The new EU policy puts a premium on opening new markets for EU exporters in major emerging countries such as China, India, Brazil and Russia, and also on pursuing robust trade defence measures against unfair trade actions.

"The tectonic plates of global commerce are moving," De Gucht said in Brussels on Tuesday (9 November), adding: "The challenges - as well as the opportunities - from globalisation are greater than ever before."