Wednesday, 23rd April 2014 02:10





Foreign trade

Estonian external trade policy and areas of responsibility of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications:

On May 1, 2004 Estonia became a full member of the European Union. Since then we are a part of the EU common market that is subject to the EU common trade policy. Trade with countries outside the EU (so called the third countries) is considered external trade. External trade is first of all promoted through WTO (World Trade Organisation). In addition to that, all bilateral or regional agreements promoting trade signed by the EU are valid in Estonia.  

Measures applied in external trade can be divided as follows:

  • Quantitative measures (quotas) and tariff measures (customs duties and charges)
  • Technical barriers
  • Trade defence instruments.

WTO member states have already decided in the Uruguay round to surrender quantitative measures as they distort trade and replace them with measures that are clear and enable entrepreneurs to make plans, e. g. tariff measures (customs duties and charges). More attention will be paid to sensitive sectors of the EU Member States like trade in services, trade in steel products and trade in textiles and to trade defence instruments meeting the international (WTO) requirements. The mechanism of surrendering trade barriers that allow an entrepreneur to make a relevant complaint to the European Commission in case of problems with the third countries is also important.

Regulation of external trade issues in Estonia and the EU

Since May 1, 2004 Estonia participates in the multilateral trade system and WTO through the EU institutions as an EU Member. In connection with Estonia’s accession to the EU Customs Union, we have taken over all the EU rights and obligations in WTO. We are continually members of WTO, but the European Commission, competent to create the whole EU external trade policy, represents us in the negotiations.

Competence of the Commission in the field of external trade means that Member States mandate the Commission through the Council of European Union for negotiations. On the ground of the mandate, the Commission makes proposals to the Council to perform common external trade policy. Discussion of the main external trade issues and stipulating the common position will take place in the relevant committee of the Council of Europe (Article 133 Committee). Article 133 Committee has been named after the article of the Treaty establishing the European Community dealing with external trade Article 133 Committee discusses external trade issues connected with agreements: multilateral (WTO), regional (Mercosur, etc) and bilateral relations (Russia, Ukraine, etc). For discussing essential matters for the EU, relevant expert committees to Article 133 Committee have been established: steel, textile, services, mutual recognition, motor vehicles. In addition to Article 133 Committee in the Council of European Union, a working group has been established for trade issues discussing matters related to the EU legislation. The advisory committees for discussing trade defence instruments have been established to the Commission.

In Estonia, the elaboration and application of external trade policy is within the competence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and Ministry of Finance. Other ministries are engaged in discussing some specific issues. Expert groups of Article 133 in sensitive areas, technical trade barriers and trade defence instruments lie within the competence of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the co-ordination of general external trade policy and negotiations with the third countries on signing contracts. The Ministry of Finance deals with customs and taxation issues like the application of quantitative and tariff measures. Some areas have been divided between the ministries (e. g., control of strategic export).  

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