Monday, July 29, 2013

E.U. Market Needs to Be Opened Up More

by Hugo Dixon

International Herald Tribune

July 29, 2013

The European Union is ripe for a big, new single-market push. Deepening the single market would do a lot for the Union’s sagging competitiveness. Vested interests may be opposed. But a drive to open up markets would help the euro zone periphery and could keep Britain in the Union, killing two birds with one stone.

It may seem odd to be calling for more work on the single market. Did the Treaty of Rome not promise the freedom of movement of goods and services throughout what is now the European Union all the way back in 1957? Did the Union not complete the single market in 1992? And was not a directive pledging free trade in services passed in 2006?

Well, yes and no. Free trade is not just about lifting intra-E.U. tariffs which were, indeed, abolished decades ago. It is also about dealing with a mass of national red tape, which protects local industries from competition. Such rules are especially prevalent in services industries.

That is why the job of freeing up the Union’s internal market is still far from complete. Even the services directive covered only sectors that account for a bit more than 40 percent of gross domestic product. Areas like energy, transport and telecommunications were left out. The legislation was also diluted so that even companies operating in the areas supposedly covered often have to go through lots of hoops to provide services in other countries. What is more, the rules are often not enforced.


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