EU industry depends almost entirely on a handful of countries for imports of 14 critical raw materials (CRMs). These are of high economic significance and are at particularly high risk of supply shortages. Geographical concentration of CRM production, growing global demand and a tendency of main suppliers to apply export restrictions to reserve CRM stocks for domestic industrialisation has rendered access to CRM markets increasingly difficult.
In the absence of progress in filling the gaps in the WTO regulatory framework, EU trade policy for raw materials has focused on addressing provisions on export restrictions in WTO accession negotiations. The EU has also sought to integrate such provisions in bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCAs) and in regional Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), to secure access to undistorted markets.
EU strategy also concentrates on the enforcement of existing trade “disciplines” through the WTO dispute-settlement mechanism and on awareness-raising through a wide range of outreach activities. EU efforts to diversify sources of CRM supplies have been complemented by national raw material strategies developed by some Member States.
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