Ago 17

European Commission Publishes Draft Revised Guidelines on State Aid for Environment and Energy

On Tuesday 8 June, the European Commission has published a draft document revising the Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy (EEAG), which now with an expanded scope is brought in line with the European Green Deal and given a new name: Climate, Energy and Environmental State Aid Guidelines (CEEAG).

The updated rules in the draft foresee that reductions from electricity levies can be granted to energy-intensive users if:

  • An undertaking belongs to a sector with trade intensity of at least 20% and an electro-intensity of at least 10% at EU level; or
  • if an undertaking belongs to a sector with an electro-intensity of at lest 7% and a trade intensity of 80% or higher.

For the ceramic industry sectors, this means that refractories (2320), ceramic tiles and flags (2331), and ceramic insulators and insulating fittings (2343) would continue to be eligible for state aid, while the bricks and rooftile as well as the sanitaryware sectors would no longer be included.

Next steps: Alongside the publication of the draft revision, the Commission has launched a targeted public consultation which is open until 2 August. Cerame-Unie will contribute to this consultation and will work together with members to launch a concerted advocacy campaign both on the EU and Member State levels to fight for a continued inclusion of all relevant sub-sectors.

The Draft CEEAG Guidelines can be found here. Annex 1 of the draft Guidelines which contains the list of eligible sectors is available here. (DB)

Ago 09

USTR Adopts and Suspends Tariffs Against Digital Services Taxes

On June 2, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) adopted additional tariffs of 25% on certain products originating from Spain, Italy, Austria, United Kingdom, Turkey, and India. However, the USTR also decided to suspend the entry into force of the tariffs for a period of 180 days (until 29 November) in order to continue negotiations with the respective countries.

The tariffs are a reaction to the plans of the above-mentioned countries to introduce taxes on revenues from digital services which would mainly target big US tech firms. Sub-headings of ceramic products are included in the tariff lists for Austria (refractories), UK (refractories, ceramic tiles, technical ceramics and sanitary ware), and Turkey (sanitary ware, tableware and ceramic tiles). (DB)

Ago 02

Prórroga de las medidas de salvaguardia al acero

En la mayoría de competiciones deportivas, cuando dos equipos están igualados en un torneo y acaban el partido en las mismas condiciones, por lo general se establece un tiempo adicional para resolver el encuentro: la prórroga. Con las medidas de salvaguardia al acero ha sucedido algo similar.

La Comisión Europea ha decidido finalmente ampliar por otros tres años las medidas de salvaguardia a las importaciones de acero. A diferencia de las medidas estadounidenses, este instrumento no cierra el mercado interno sino que empiezan a aplicarse en el caso de que se supere cierto umbral vinculado al nivel de importación de los últimos años.

Los contingentes han entrado en vigor el pasado 1 de julio y se pueden consultar en el DOUE[1]. Aunque los burócratas europeos apenas han modificado el funcionamiento de la salvaguardia, me gustaría destacar los siguientes elementos de la regulación.

Crecen los contingentes

Los contingentes asignados al tercer trimestre de 2021 (el primer trimestre del año 4 de las medidas), son prácticamente un 5 % más altos que el promedio de los dos primeros trimestres de 2021.

Por ejemplo, en los dos primeros trimestres de 2021, los contingentes aplicados a las importaciones procedentes de Turquía han pasado de casi 316.000 toneladas a algo más de 330.000 en el tercero y cuarto.

Países exentos

Como ya sabéis, algunos países en vías de desarrollo están exentos de las medidas siempre que cumplan ciertos requisitos que establece el Acuerdo de Salvaguardias de la OMC.

En esta ocasión la Comisión no ha modificado el listado de países que se beneficiaba de esta exención, por lo que se mantiene la tabla del Reglamento de Implementación de la Comisión EU 2020/2037.

Ritmo de liberalización

Por otro lado, la Comisión ha decidido seguir aumentando el nivel de los contingentes en un 3 % cada año.

Extension medidas de salvaguardia

Con estos incrementos el volumen de importación se mantendrá en 32,5 millones de toneladas. Esta cifra supera en un 15 % el nivel que se alcanzó en el periodo de investigación (2015-2017), si bien está ligeramente por debajo del máximo histórico de 2018, como se puede ver en el gráfico (34,6 millones de toneladas).

Sin embargo hay países que habitualmente agotan sus contingentes, incluso en apenas unos días. Turquía, por ejemplo, suele completar el volumen asignado de tubos gas y bobinas laminadas en caliente no inoxidables. Rusia, por su parte suele consumir los contingentes de corrugado y tubos estructurales entre otros.

Revisión de las medidas

Las autoridades comunitarias se han comprometido a revisar el funcionamiento de los contingentes de salvaguardia antes del 30 de junio del próximo año. También se modificarán en el caso de que Estados Unidos cambie las medidas impuestas al acero en la etapa de Trump.

Además, la Comisión quiere garantizar que la prórroga de las medidas de salvaguardia al acero dura el menor tiempo posible, por lo que antes del 30 de junio de 2023 valorará la conveniencia de su finalización. Es decir, con esto Bruselas se asegura que el partido no acaba en los penaltis.

[1] En el caso de los contingentes de las chapas galvanizadas se debe acudir a una revisión posterior. Aunque la cifra del contingente total no ha variado, ha cambiado el reparto de los residuales como de los específicos por país.

 

Alejandro Arnao Solera
Estudios Económicos

Jul 26

European Parliament Votes to Freeze EU-China Negotiations on Investment Deal

Members of the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly Thursday in support of freezing the legislative process for ratifying the EU’s investment pact with China, until Beijing lifts sanctions against EU lawmakers.

The motion was passed by 599 MEPs, with 30 votes against and 58 abstentions, dealing a blow to the fate of the pact, officially known as the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI).

«CAI is definitely in the freezer. China miscalculated and shot themselves in the foot,» Reinhard Bütikofer, chair of the Parliament’s delegation for relations with China, said on Twitter.

European Parliament’s plenary session

Bütikofer is one of five MEPs sanctioned by China, which also imposed similar measures on the European Parliament’s human rights subcommittee after the 27 EU countries sanctioned four Chinese officials involved in mass internment of Uyghur people in the Xinjiang region.

According to the motion, the Parliament took the position that «any consideration of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, as well as any discussion on ratification by the European Parliament, have justifiably been frozen because the Chinese sanctions are in place.»

It also demands that «China lift the sanctions before dealing with CAI, without prejudice to the final outcome of the CAI ratification process,» and says MEPs expect the European Commission «to consult with Parliament before taking any steps towards the conclusion and signature of the CAI.»

Beijing previously said it expected MEPs to «reflect deeply» and to ratify the deal as soon as possible. There are no signs from Beijing yet that it’s planning to remove the sanctions, which it has called «necessary, legitimate and just.»

When asked about the Parliament’s vote during a press conference later Thursday, EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said: “This is something which we have been making very clear also on the European Commission’s side.

“We cannot see this process of ratification outside of the broader context of EU-China relations. The fact that China has introduced retaliatory sanctions, including against members of the European Parliament, is certainly not a conducive environment for working towards the ratification of the deal,” he said.

Still, the vote does not mark an end to the deal, according to a spokeswoman for the European Commission. While the EU executive “takes note of” Parliament’s vote, she said Brussels “continues to think that CAI would bring benefits to Europe.”

“We will reassess the situation once technical work — legal review and translations — is completed,” she said.

Giorgio Leali contributed reporting.

This article was updated with comments from Valdis Dombrovskis and a Commission spokeswoman.

Jul 19

Essential Use Concept (EUC) in REACH Inception Impact Assessment

EUC was mentioned in the latest REACH Inception Impact Assessment, which includes the objective of “operationalising the concept of essential use in restrictions, including the criteria for granting derogations.” Upon this, several groups questioned the concept itself and the practical challenges associated with implementing its elements. Industry (via various alliances) demands more discussion, clarity, and coherence with other EU objectives and global considerations such as free trade.

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