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2.5 Tariff Suspension

Suspensions are adopted on the basis of Article 31 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Suspensions permit the total (total suspension) or partial waiver (partial suspension) of the normal duties applicable to imported goods for an unlimited quantity (anti-dumping duties are not affected by these suspensions). If the suspension is for a limited quantity, the suspension will be a quota.

Goods imported under the suspension arrangements are in free circulation and enjoy freedom of movement throughout the EU. Furthermore, once a suspension is granted, normally any operator in any Member State is eligible to benefit from it.

The main purpose of tariff suspensions is to enable EU enterprises to use raw materials, semi-finished goods or components without being required to pay the normal duties laid down in the common customs tariff. Suspensions are proposed after an examination of the economic reasons on which the requests are based and only insofar as they seem likely to benefit the EU economy.

The requests for a tariff suspension are submitted by the Member States on behalf of EU processing or manufacturing companies, identified by name, which are adequately equipped to use the imported goods in their production processes.

Goods, for which equivalent or substitute products are manufactured in sufficient quantities within the EU or by producers in a third country with preferential tariff arrangements, cannot benefit from a suspension. The same applies where the measure could result in a distortion of competition in respect of the final products.

Council Regulation 1255/96 (suspensions) establishes the list of goods subject to these measures. This regulation is regularly amended (in January and July each year)[25] to take into consideration new requests presented by the Member States.

The following conditions apply for the granting of an autonomous tariff suspension:

  • a request is made via the Member state in which the producer needing the duty-suspended article is situated.
  • the duty foregone exceeds a minimum threshold of €20,000 per year.
  • the product will undergo sufficient processing.
  • identical or equivalent goods are not produced in the EU or in countries benefiting from EU tariff preferences.
  • the competition between the goods made from the imported materials and identical or equivalent EU products is not distorted.
  • the importer has not concluded an exclusive contract with the supplier.
  • the necessary details (that is a precise goods description, the need for imports, foreign producers, users in the EU, lack of EU production, advantages for the EU) are to be provided within the required deadline.

More information and forms can be found in the Commission Communication concerning autonomous tariff suspensions and quotas.[26]

2.5.1 Preferences under Free Trade Agreements/Partnerships Agreements

The EU has in place a wide variety of preferential trade agreements and arrangements motivated by economic, historical, development, and geo-political considerations. As a consequence, its purely MFN regime (i.e. the normal tariff duties) merely applies to nine WTO Members, including Hong Kong. The EU also has a further degree of economic integration with some countries, with which it has established a customs union or a single market[27].

The EU’s preferential trade agreements have so far resulted in free trade in industrial goods, and limited liberalisation of trade in agricultural goods. In some cases, these agreements also cover trade in services. Liberalisation under its reciprocal preferential agreements is often undertaken asymmetrically (with the EU granting more preferences) and over different transitional periods. The agreements also cover, inter alia, the harmonisation of technical requirements (including standards), intellectual property protection, investment, competition policy, government procurement, trade defence instruments, and dispute settlement mechanisms.


[25] Last publications took place in: Council Regulation (EC) No 1265/2010 [2010] L347/9.

[26] Official Journal C 128 of 25/04/1998, p. 2

[27] For a list of regional trade agreements concluded between the EU and third parties, please refer to the following Internet website regularly updated:


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