EU Trade

Steptoe's Brussels legal team has over 30 years’ experience with European Union and international trade matters. We have a strong command of the formulation and application of EU trade policy and offer our clients effective advice and representation of their trade interests, concerning both the EU market and third country markets. Our key aims are to ensure fair market access and to ensure for our clients the application of EU trade policy and other measures consistent with EU law and the international trade rules of the WTO.  

The Brussels trade team has substantial experience with EU trade remedies cases (antidumping, countervailing duty and safeguard proceedings) and also concerning customs issues and the trade impact of legislative initiatives in other areas of EU regulatory competence, for example the trade impact of EU measures concerning:

  • Chemical substances;
  • Product approvals and technical standards;
  • Food safety rules; and
  • Environmental protection measures. 

Where trade obstacles arise in the form of EU Member State domestic regulatory measures, we work with the European Commission to obtain intra-EU “free movement” remedies, relating to the marketing of both goods and services. The types of services we provide on these trade and other market access matters include:

  • Representation in Brussels and on-site through all phases of EU trade law administrative proceedings;
  • Assessment, legal support and strategy to influence EU trade proposals;
  • Strategy and advocacy on EU customs classification/valuation, preferential regimes and application of EU rules of origin;
  • Advice and legal initiatives to challenge Member State and third country laws hindering market access, through EU administrative procedures that can lead to potential WTO dispute settlement, and EU judicial proceedings;
  • Appeal of EU trade regulations before the EU Courts; and
  • Advice and advocacy contesting WTO validity of EU trade and regulatory measures. 

Trade Remedies Cases
Our team is one of the leading trade remedy practices in Brussels.  We regularly act on behalf of exporters to the European Union, EU user industries and importers affected by antidumping, subsidy, and safeguard proceedings.  In this context, our lawyers offer strategic planning and lobbying in addition to legal representation throughout the course of the administrative proceedings.  In many cases, we coordinate closely with the exporting country government authorities and/or EU Member States (in support of EU users’ and importers’ interests) with regard to representations and policy initiatives to be taken at the EU level in connection with the proceeding.  In several highly visible cases, our strategic efforts have been successful in overcoming Commission proposals for definitive measures.

Our team has also vast experience representing clients in appeals proceedings before the General Court and the Court of Justice of the EU, and is responsible for several landmark cases, including Ikea Wholesale (Case C-351/04) defining the direct impact of WTO law into the EU legal order, and XinYi PV (Case T?586/14) annulling the rejection by the European Commission of the market economy treatment claimed by our Chinese client. 

EU Customs
Our Brussels team has a unique focus on EU customs laws and proceedings. Steptoe is a founding member of Green Lane, an alliance of European customs and trade law firms present in 13 European countries with significant ports. Green Lane was created in order to meet our clients’ needs for seamless services to solve the customs issues they face when importing goods across multiple European ports.

The Green Lane law firms, present locally in most of Europe’s ports, are close to the EU Member States’ customs authorities and include seasoned litigators before their Member State’s tax and customs courts. Our team in Brussels has experience in the EU’s legislative and investigative activities that local customs enforce. The combination of these EU and local capabilities makes Steptoe uniquely qualified to assist international corporations facing often similar difficulties in multiple points of entry into the EU’s territory.

Our lawyers in Brussels also advise on all aspects of EU customs law and procedures, including classification, valuation, preferential tariff regimes and rules of origin; special customs procedures such as binding tariff and origin information, inward/outward processing relief, tariff suspensions, post-clearance recovery of duties, self-disclosure proceedings, compliance programs, and third-country valuation.

Trade Barriers in Export Markets
When our clients in the EU are affected by trade barriers in their export markets, we work closely with the European Commission to pursue representations to the third country government under the EU’s Trade Barriers Regulation (TBR) and, as necessary, to secure international remedies to these barriers.  We have represented clients in a number of TBR proceedings which have led to effective regulatory amendments in the target foreign jurisdiction.  In other cases, we have been called upon to act on behalf of business interests in the targeted foreign jurisdiction to help respond to EU TBR investigations. 

World Trade Organization
We advise on the compatibility of EU and Member States’ regulations with the relevant international rules, especially those reflected in the WTO Agreements.  Our WTO advice has covered most aspects of the negotiation and application of WTO rules, including the rules of the Anti-Dumping Agreement and Agreements on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, Technical Barriers to Trade and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.  At issue have been EU trade decisions and regulatory initiatives relating, for example, to the electronics, motor vehicles and biotechnology product sectors.  Steptoe has long been active in international dispute settlement of trade matters.  Our lawyers have advised clients regarding some of the most significant international trade disputes handled by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body.

Other Areas of Trade and Market Access Experience 
Other aspects of trade experience involve strategic advice to corporate clients and governments on aspects of international trade law and negotiation of bilateral trade arrangements (FTAs and other preferential trade) and multilateral agreements affecting trade relations.  For example, we have advised a government in its negotiations for an FTA with the EU, concerning both the substantive issues covered by the FTA and the strategy.

We also advise corporate and third country interests on EU cross-sectoral regulatory initiatives, such as concerning intellectual property rights, to ensure that the eventual EU legislation complies with TRIPS obligations, for example.  See below for more on Steptoe’s WTO dispute settlement experience. With its long experience in Brussels, we also advise on draft EU regulations that may impact EU market access, whether the regulatory initiative is still in the draft stage (pre-Commission approval) or in the form of formal Commission proposals still needing to undergo Parliament and Council review and decision-taking.  We are also often confronted with national legislative proposals of Member States, such as those notified under the EU’s stand-still rules or raised as urgent health or safety matters, that may contravene EU/international trade law and coordinate with the industry interests and relevant Commission services to ensure appropriate legal review and compliance.  These issues have concerned, for example, biotech products, textiles/apparel and general consumer and electronic goods, chemicals, foods and motor vehicles.

The Broader Steptoe & Johnson LLP Trade Practice
Steptoe & Johnson LLP brings together more 500 professionals across nine offices in the United States, Europe, and China. With over 40 lawyers specialized in international trade matters and over four decades of experience, Steptoe has one of the world’s largest and most acclaimed international trade practices.  While a number of law firms practice in this field, Steptoe’s international trade practice is distinguished by the range and depth of its experience, the highly sensitive nature and international visibility of many of its cases, and the quality of its clients. In 2015, Law360 named Steptoe's International Trade group the International Trade Practice of the Year. In 2016, China Law & Practice also awarded us the distinction International Firm of the Year: Trade. A number of our trade lawyers in Brussels, Washington, D.C., and Beijing are annually commended in leading legal directories, such as Chambers and Legal 500.  

Steptoe has represented North American, European and Asian companies in a wide array of international trade proceedings, with a particular emphasis on US and European Union (EU) antidumping and countervailing duty proceedings. Over the years, Steptoe attorneys have represented clients in over 150 US antidumping and countervailing duty proceedings; attorneys in its Brussels office have experience in over 120 EU trade remedies proceedings. We have experience in trade cases across the commercial spectrum:

  • Primary resources: steel, lumber, uranium, magnesium, copper, plastics, and chemicals;
  • Consumer goods:  textiles, apparel, furniture, motorcycles, bicycles;
  • Industrial machinery: printing presses, gas turbo-compressor systems, antifriction bearings, and commercial aircraft; and
  • Raw and processed agricultural products: wheat, seafood, soybeans, animal feeds, kiwi fruit, and fertilizers. 

Steptoe’s transatlantic capability in both US and EU trade law, backed by its significant WTO experience, means that Steptoe is well placed to assist clients facing trade sanctions in the world’s largest trading blocks.  Our transatlantic capability is particularly important when clients, whether in the United States, Europe or Asia, have their products affected by proceedings in both jurisdictions or are caught up in US/EU retaliatory measures, meaning that close coordination between these jurisdictions is essential.  The firm is known particularly for being able to handle complex trade proceedings, appearing not only before the US and EU administrative bodies, for example, but also before national courts and international dispute settlement tribunals, such as those convened under the North American Free Trade Agreement.  We also counsel clients on their rights and obligations under international and regional trade agreements, and advise clients involved in dispute settlement proceedings before the World Trade Organization.  Steptoe has a long and distinguished record of WTO dispute settlement cases and has had major successes in high profile cases.  Whatever the trade forum, we aim not only to help to achieve a successful resolution in that particular case but also to ensure that our clients understand how that case is influenced by broader trade policy concerns and how to work with the relevant government agencies, in the United States, the EU and in third countries, to shape their trade policies in a more favorable manner. 

Comprehensive listing of EU trade cases 

  • Brazil—Cotton yarn
  • China—Acesulfame Potassium (ACE-K) (undertaking)
  • China—Artificial corundum
  • China—Barium carbonate
  • China—Bicycles (AD proceeding, expiry review and appeal at Court of First Instance)
  • China—Candles
  • China—Carbon Steel Fasteners
  • China—Carbon Steel Fasteners (duty refund) - Ongoing
  • China—Castings
  • China—Cathode-ray colour TV picture tubes
  • China—Ceramic Tablewares (AD)
  • China—Ceramic Tiles (AD)
  • China—Certain footwear with leather uppers
  • China—Certain footwear with protective toecap
  • China—Citric acid (new exporter review)
  • China—Coal coke
  • China—Coated fine paper (AD & AS and appeal at Court of First Instance)
  • China—Corrosion resistant steel (AD) - Ongoing
  • China—Energy-saving lamps (CFL-I)
  • China—Ferro-molybdenum
  • China—Ferro-silico-manganese
  • China—Footwear (advising Chinese private/government entities on EU import regime, especially concerning customs classification, AD circumvention and absorption issues)
  • China—Footwear with uppers of leather
  • China—Frozen strawberries
  • China—Furfuraldehyde (AD)
  • China—Furfuryl alcohol (review)
  • China—Glyphosate
  • China—Graphite electrodes
  • China—Hand pallet trucks
  • China—Hand-pallet trucks (circumvention)
  • China—High tenacity tarn of polyester (AD investigaiton, new exporter and scope reviews)
  • China—Hot-dipped metallic-coated steel (AD)
  • China—Ironing boards
  • China—Leather and synthetic leather footwear (1998 proceedings)
  • China—Leather footwear, representing Chinese Coalition Against Anti-Dumping Duties (180 producer members), 16 individual producers and one major trading company (2005 AD proceedings; 4 Cases of Appeal to the Court of First Instance)
  • China—Magnesia bricks (new exporter review)
  • China—Malleable cast iron pipe fittings
  • China—Monosodium Glutamate
  • China—Organic coated steel (AD & AS)
  • China—Oxalic acid (court appeal)
  • China—Paint brushes
  • China—Paracetamol
  • China—Persulphates
  • China—Plastic sacks and bags
  • China—Polyester filament apparel fabrics
  • China—Polyester staple fibre (AD, AS and partial interim review)
  • China—PTFE
  • China—Quarto steel plate
  • China—Representation of Korean stainless steel producer in AD case in China
  • China—Safety shoes
  • China—Seamless pipes and tubes
  • China—Solar glass (AD & AS, court appeal)
  • China—Solar panels (AD & AS)
  • China—Solar panels (company name change)
  • China—Solar panels (court appeal challenging the withdrawing of undertaking) – Ongoing
  • China—Solar panels (interim review on the form of measures) – Ongoing
  • China—Solar panels, transshipped from Malaysia and Taiwan (anti-circumvention)
  • China—Steel pipe fittings (representing producers and EU importer)
  • China—Steel stranded ropes and cables
  • China—Textile footwear (AD proceeding and intervention on behalf of EU importers in support of appeal of definitive measures at Court of First Instance)
  • China—Unbleached cotton fabric (AD proceeding and appeal on behalf of largest European importer at Court of First Instance)
  • China—Unwrought unalloyed magnesium
  • China—Veterinary antibiotics (sunset review)
  • China—Wireless wide area networking (WWAN) modems (AD, AS, Safeguards)
  • China—Yellow phosphorus
  • China—Zinc-oxide
  • China and Hong Kong—CD-Rs
  • China and Hong Kong—Recordable versatile digital disks (DVD+/-R)
  • China and Pakistan—Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • China and Taiwan—PVA
  • China and Taiwan—Stainless steel seamless pipes
  • China, Belarus, Korea and Saudi Arabia—Polyester staple fibre (review)
  • China, Korea and Taiwan—Stainless steel cold-rolled coils
  • Egypt—Cotton fabric
  • EU—Carbon black (rubber industry; tyre producers) importers of carbon black from Russia and Egypt
  • EU—Cellular mobile radio telephone
  • Hong Kong—Book-bound photo albums (appeal at Court of First Instance)
  • Hong Kong—Sports bags and school bags (representing producers and EU importer)
  • India and Russia—Steel wire ropes (review)
  • India—Coumarin (circumvention case)
  • India—Graphite electrodes
  • India—PET (anti-dumping and countervailing duty expiry reviews on-going)
  • India—PSF (anti-dumping expiry review on-going)
  • India—PTY (expiry review strategy)
  • India—Stainless Steel Bars
  • India—Stainless Steel Fasteners
  • India—Stainless Steel Wires (AD & AS, court appeal and anti-absorption proceedings)
  • India—Sulphanilic acid (review)
  • India—Synthetic fibre ropes
  • Indonesia and Malaysia—Fatty alcohol (AD)
  • Indonesia—Footwear
  • Israel—PET Film (new exporter review)
  • Japan—Semi-conductors (DRAMS)
  • Macedonia—Ferro-silicon
  • Pakistan—Bed linen
  • Pakistan—Cotton fabric
  • Pakistan—Cotton-type bed linen (review)
  • Poland—Hardboard (new exporter review)
  • Russia—Aluminium household foil (review)
  • Russia—Ammonium nitrate
  • Russia—Potassium chloride
  • Russia—Silicon carbide
  • South Africa—Craft paper
  • South Korea—Grain oriented electrical steel (AD)
  • South Korea—High tenacity yarn of polyester (AD)
  • South Korea—Korean Footwear Exporters Association and EU importer of footwear from Korea (three separate safeguard cases, with regard to Italian, French and EU-wide markets)
  • South Korea—Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • South Korea—Purified terephthalic acid and its salts (AD)
  • South Korea—Side-by-side refrigerators
  • South Korea—Steel ropes and cables (AD)
  • South Korea—Tubes and pipe fitting (interim and expiry reviews)
  • Taiwan—DVDs
  • Taiwan—Glass fibre fabrics (combined anti-subsidy investigation)
  • Taiwan—Stainless steel cold rolls (AD)
  • Taiwan—Stainless steel cold-rolled flat (anti-absorption)
  • Taiwan—Steel pipe fittings
  • Thailand—Plastic bags (review)
  • Thailand—Sweetcorn
  • Turkey—Polyester yarn
  • Turkey—Portland cement
  • Ukraine—Ammonium nitrate (review)
  • United States—Trichloroisocyanuric acid (TCCA)
  • Venezuela—Steel wire rod
  • Vietnam—Bicycles
  • Vietnam—Certain footwear with uppers of leather
  • Vietnam—Leather footwear (representing producers and trade association in 2005 proceeding)