EU shipping, controlling some 40% of the world fleet tonnage, is predominantly an international activity. Shipping not only connects the EU with its trading partners, but a very large share of the EU shipping activity also involves cross-trades, transporting goods between third countries. National policies and developments in third countries have considerable impact on international trade and access to their markets. It goes without saying that the close monitoring of developments, the enhancement of policies and operational efficiencies in third countries is of great importance to ECSA.
SHORT AND MEDIUM TERM APPROACHES
To smooth out specific obstacles to free trade and/or the efficiency in the maritime transport chain, ECSA intervenes by co-ordinated industry initiatives with the relevant national authorities directly and, as appropriate, by co-ordination with the EU institutions, as well as towards the World Bank and the WTO (World Trade Organisation). In these initiatives ECSA protects and promotes the interests of the EU shipping industry and, at the same time, stresses the importance of efficient maritime transport to the external trade and the national economies of the subject countries.
In furthering the globalisation of trade, obstacles should be removed and legal certainty offered so that they should not reoccur. ECSA therefore welcomed, as a first step, the inclusion of maritime articles in bilateral partnership and co-operation agreements as negotiated by the EU with many third countries and as currently under negotiation with Mercosur.
To enhance the efficiency of the EU maritime policy towards third countries ECSA, in close co-operation with the Commission services and the French Council Presidency, organised a third workshop on maritime external relations in October 2000. With active participation from Member States, the Commission services, shippers and shipowners, suggestions were made to improve communication channels and practical co-operation between the different parties involved. A regular monitoring of the performance was considered important.
Significant progress is being made through the efforts of the Commission to conclude specific bilateral maritime agreements with China and with India. The reactions of both countries have been positive and constructive, recognising the importance of maritime transport to their external trades and as industries in their own right.
WTO - THE LONG TERM APPROACH
Considerable attention is being given to the developments in the context of the WTO on two parallel, but interactive fronts. The shipping industry has an interest on both fronts. On the one hand the prospect of widely subscribed ambitious commitments for liberalisation in maritime transport. On the other, a new WTO Round setting up to date rules for the further liberalisation and the enhancement of trade in goods which, after all, are largely carried by sea.
As agreed at the end of the Uruguay Round, the preparatory work for negotiations on services, including maritime transport, and on agriculture started in year 2000, gradually intensified. Guidelines for the effective negotiations were agreed end March 2001 and a detailed analysis of the proposals by a range of countries is under way. The number of proposals including maritime transport is thus far rather limited and, not surprisingly, originates notably from those countries with a strong direct interest in shipping. The effective negotiations through a "request-offer" procedure are likely to start early 2002 and for maritime transport to be based on the pillars of i) access to market, ii) access to port services, iii) access to ancillary services, iv) multi-modal transport, thereby building on the offers and commitments at the end of the Uruguay Round.
More public attention is being given to the issue of whether a new comprehensive and ambitious WTO Round can be started. This will be for decision at the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha (Qatar), early November 2001. There appears to be increasing support between WTO members for a new Round to address the rules for international trade. Criticism often appears to derive from the complexity of issues to hand and too narrow perspectives.
Enhanced transparency, the dispute settlement system and horizontal issues like domestic regulation for the effective implementation of an agreement will be taken up. Substantial progress on trade facilitation would be very welcome to the transport sectors and trade in goods alike, as procedures represent a core element and, all too often, an obstacle in daily activities.
A failure to come to a new Round which meets the realities of international trade would be a severe set back for WTO, stimulate pure bilateral agreements and risk the reappearance of protectionism.
ECSA is in continuous contact with the EU Institutions on the further developments both on the new Round and on the specific service negotiations. Contacts are also maintained with other European service industries on horizontal issues in the context of ESF (European Services Forum).