Trade defence measures in the form of tariff increases may temporarily be taken to protect the domestic economy if a domestic sector is threatened with serious injury. Such measures are applicable, for example, if one party's subsidies unduly affect trade, if companies in another country enter the market of the other party with dumping prices, or if the negotiated tariff preferences cause injury to domestic industries. The provisions in the FTAs are largely based on WTO law. In addition, they contain consultation and information obligations tailored to the bilateral relationship.
Safeguard measures often hit the export industry unexpectedly and can thus undermine legal certainty. If taken for protectionist motives, they are unjustified. In its FTA negotiations, Switzerland is seeking the mutual exclusion of anti-dumping measures. In addition, Switzerland strives to exclude each other from WTO safeguard measures wherever possible, provided that their imports do not cause serious injury. This is however not always successful, as many countries are unwilling to make concessions on these issues.
FAQs on trade defence instruments
Trade defence instruments are regulated in WTO law. FTAs will usually make reference to these rules unless Switzerland succeeds in banning anti-dumping measures for both sides, for instance. Additionally, FTAs contain obligations to consult and provide information. These consultations allow both sides to gain a better understanding of their respective legal position and the background of the intended measure. The ultimate aim is to increase legal security for the benefit of exporters by preventing protectionist measures as far as possible.
EFTA member states do not apply any anti-dumping measures, and, in any case, their companies hardly ever engage in price dumping abroad that could damage the economy there. Nevertheless, Swiss companies will also be negatively affected by anti-dumping measures if they are abused for protectionist ends. The aim of such measures – to combat predatory pricing – is often better achieved through domestic competition rules than with anti-dumping measures. Banning the use of these measures ultimately serves to increase legal security and thus planning security for economic operators.
No, Switzerland has never taken any defence measures of this kind. It should be considered that protective measures always also affect the domestic economy and consumers by leading to higher prices and less product choice.
On 23 March 2018, the USA introduced new import tariffs of 25% on certain steel products and 10% on certain aluminium products, ostensibly on national security grounds. These tariffs also apply to imports from Switzerland. On 19 July 2018, the EU approved defence instruments in the form of tariff-rate quotas for imports of steel products from non-member states. These measures will remain in force until 30 June 2021 and also affect steel imported into the EU from Switzerland. There have also been isolated cases in the past of anti-dumping measures against products imported from China, which had an indirect effect on Swiss companies involved in further processing these products in Switzerland.
Last modification 09.09.2020