The European Commission has just sent the Council of Ministers a draft Regulation on measures to promote and provide information on agricultural products in non-EU countries. The aim of the proposal is to develop a global and consistent policy for providing information on and promoting certain agricultural products and to set up an instrument of EU support for such activities in third countries. The actions to be undertaken can be general such as market research and surveys, but can also be carried out for a specific sector or for specific products with the purpose of establishing a basis for the marketing effort. The EU financial assistance for these promotional activities is Euro 15 million a year.

To date the EU has conducted promotion campaigns in non-member countries in a very small number of sectors, in particular olive oil (through the Madrid-based International Olive Oil Council) and fibre flax (directly managed by the Commission). According to the Commission, the results obtained are very satisfactory and the use of these products outside the EU is developing. In supporting its initiative, the Commission argues that while the primary responsibility for promoting their products rests with the producers and the trade as well as with the Member States of origin, the EU can play a very useful role in this field.

The Commission puts forward different arguments in favour of EU policy for export promotion:

* EU action should provide a boost for national initiatives and private activities and it would benefit all producer Member States, including those which do not have the financial resources to launch promotional schemes.

* In the new international environment of declining export refunds and a greater liberalisation of trade, the competitive position of EU products can be improved by EU actions to promote their image on international markets.

* In addition to market studies, specific EU action to develop new export markets could involve high-level official visits, in particular to international fairs to help open up certain markets. EU-level visits of this kind can prove highly effective compared to similar initiatives taken by a sole Member State which focuses on its own products.

* The need for an active promotion policy is recognised by the EU's principal trade partners which, in the light of the new international context resulting from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreements, have equipped themselves with ever more effective...

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