EU Trade

Steptoe's Brussels legal team has over 25 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 trade interests involved in trade proceedings initiated by the EU, 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 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 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, EU trade barriers initiatives leading to 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 has comprehensive experience with trade remedies cases.  We regularly act on behalf of exporters to the European Union and EU importers affected by antidumping, subsidy, and safeguard proceedings.  In this context, our lawyers offer strategic planning and lobbying in addition to expert 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 importers’ and users’ 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 at the Council level in overcoming Commission proposals for definitive measures. We have also represented clients in successful appeals before the Court of First Instance. 

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. 

EU Customs
The EU practice offers experience in the key areas of EU customs law: classification, valuation, preferential tariff regimes and rules of origin.  In addition, the customs team has solid experience on other specialized customs matters, such as binding tariff and origin information, tariff suspensions, post-clearance recovery of duties, self-disclosure proceedings, inward/outward processing, customs warehousing, compliance programs, third-country valuation and other customs practices.

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, as well as dispute settlement under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Other Areas of Trade and Market Access Expertise
Other aspects of trade expertise 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 are advising a government in its ongoing negotiations for an FTA with the EU, concerning both the substantive issues covered by the FTA and the strategy.  We also have advised a major industry on utilizing the Doha process to achieve specific market access objectives.  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 truly 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 than 485 attorneys across eight offices in the United States and Europe.  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 expertise, the highly sensitive nature and international visibility of many of its cases, and the quality of its clients. In 2007, Chambers USA, a leading international legal publication, named Steptoe's International Trade group the International Trade Practice of the Year.
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 more than 40 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 expertise 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 expertise 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. We are currently representing China in important WTO litigation concerning antidumping and countervailing duties.  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. 

Listing of EU “Trade Defence” Case Experience

  • Brazil—cotton yarn producers
  • China—representation of Korean stainless steel producer in AD case in China
  • China—paracetamol producers
  • China—zinc-oxide producers
  • China—ferro-molybdenum producers
  • China—unwrought unalloyed magnesium producers
  • China—paint brushes producers
  • China—persulphates producers
  • China—steel pipe fittings producers and EU importer
  • China—glyphosate producers
  • China—artificial corundum producers
  • China—ferro-silico-manganese producers
  • China—steel stranded ropes and cables producers
  • China—malleable cast iron pipe fittings producer
  • China—quarto steel plate producers
  • China—unwrought unalloyed magnesium producers
  • China—yellow phosphorus producers
  • China—coal coke producers
  • China—unbleached cotton fabric producers (AD proceeding and appeal on behalf of largest European importer at Court of First Instance)
  • China—veterinary antibiotics producers (Sunset Review)
  • China—bicycles (AD proceeding and appeal at Court of First Instance)
  • China—textile footwear producers (A-D proceeding and intervention on behalf of EU importers in support of appeal of definitive measures at Court of First Instance)
  • China—leather and synthetic leather footwear producers (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 – on-going)
  • China—footwear (advising Chinese private/government entities on EU import regime, especially concerning customs classification, AD circumvention and absorption issues)
  • Egypt—cotton fabric producers
  • EU—cellular mobile radio telephone producer
  • EU—carbon black (rubber industry; tyre producers) importers of carbon black from Russia and Egypt
  • Hong Kong—book-bound photo albums producer (appeal at Court of First Instance)
  • Hong Kong—sports bags and school bags producers and EU importer
  • India—synthetic fibre ropes producers
  • India—PET producer (anti-dumping and countervailing duty expiry reviews on-going)
  • India—PSF producer (anti-dumping expiry review on-going)
  • India—PTY producer (expiry review strategy)
  • Indonesia—footwear producers
  • Japan—semi-conductors (DRAMS) producer
  • 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)
  • Pakistan—cotton fabric producers
  • Pakistan—bed linen producer
  • South Africa—craft paper producer
  • Taiwan—glass fibre fabrics producers (combined anti-subsidy investigation)
  • Turkey—polyester yarn producers
  • Turkey—portland cement producers
  • United States—trichloroisocyanuric acid (TCCA) producer
  • Venezuela—steel wire rod producer
  • Vietnam—leather footwear producers and trade association (2005 proceeding ongoing)