EU - Country Commercial Guide
Market Challenges
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The TTC is one example where the United States and the European Union continue to work towards fair and balanced trade to grow the transatlantic economy.  Washington and Brussels are engaged in numerous trade and investment workstreams to promote transatlantic commercial opportunities, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.  These include discussions with a view towards agreement on digital privacy, artificial intelligence, digital platforms taxation and regulation, green technology, simplified standards, and certification procedures for medical devices.

EU legislation generally takes two forms.  Regulations contain mandatory language and are directly and uniformly applicable to all Member States when that regulation comes into effect.  Directives provide a general framework, set regulatory objectives, and must be transposed into national legislation at the Member State level.  As Member States have different legal systems and regulatory practices, there are differences in how directives are implemented, which complicates compliance for U.S. companies doing business in the European Union. 

The division of competences between the European Union and its Member States are categorized in three main categories: the exclusive competences of the EU, shared competences, and supporting competences.  The European Union has exclusive competences in the areas of the customs union, establishing the competition rules, the monetary policy for area countries, conversation of marine biological resources and the common commercial policy.  The European Union shares with its Member States the competence for legislative harmonization, which it exercises in areas such as the free circulation of goods, services, capital, and in such sectors as agriculture, fisheries, transport, and energy.  Meanwhile, health, tourism, and civil protection are examples of areas where the European Union can legislate only in support of Member States’ initiatives.

While the European Union continues to move in the direction of a single market, the reality is that U.S. exporters continue to face barriers to entry and challenges with the fragmentation of regulations, testing, and standards at the Member State level.  In some industries, such as information technology, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, telecommunications, legal services, and government procurement, some of these barriers are more pronounced.  In addition, across many sectors, there is concern that more protectionist measures will be introduced in the name of a more strategically autonomous economic union.

U.S.-EU discussions about removing trade irritants or facilitating transatlantic trade are ongoing, including discussions about improving transparency in developing regulatory procedures and standards.  U.S. trade agencies, including the U.S. Department of Commerce, continue to work closely with the business community to ensure that the European Union and its Member States comply with their bilateral and multilateral trade obligations, and to address market access problems affecting U.S. firms.