BusinessEurope Headlines No. 2023-12
“The Inflation Reduction Act has been at the centre of political discussions in the last months, both with the United States and within the EU. It has generated a lot of tensions, but it had the positive side effect of spurring a much-needed reflection on competitiveness in Europe”, said BusinessEurope Director General Markus J. Beyrer to Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers during a meeting on 29 March. While a lot of progress was made on important issues like data flows and a new EU-U.S. data privacy framework, some outstanding issues remain to be addressed, including on steel and aluminium and aircraft subsidies. “We still believe the Trade and Technology Council should be the main platform for EU-U.S. dialogue and joint initiatives to improve transatlantic relations, but we need to have more transparency and concrete outcomes at the next ministerial meeting in May”, he added.
Contact: Eleonora Catella
Five steps to provide relief to SMEs
By Daniele Olivieri, Senior Adviser for industrial and SME policies
Have you ever heard the hackneyed statement that “small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Europe's economy”? If you work in Brussels, probably you’ve heard it more than once. This statement is as true as steel as SMEs represent 99% of all businesses in the European Union. But do EU SMEs receive 99% of attention from European, and national, policy makers? Is legislation truly conceived for 99% of the business population? We know for a fact that SMEs are concerned, directly or indirectly, by virtually every single binding or non-binding rule.
A lot has happened in the last years: the economic shockwaves from the Russian war in Ukraine eroding the tentative recovery from the pandemic, the further undermining of already disrupted global supply chains, the impact of additional challenges connected to the regulatory environment and cumulative costs. We acknowledge the EU has been taking some relevant steps to support SMEs, but when you speak to entrepreneurs – I know many of them – the impression is that things did not progress the way they would have hoped for. Are entrepreneurs too demanding? Or too little attention is paid to what really matters to them?
In our recent “Call for action to boost competitiveness and create regulatory breathing space”, BusinessEurope identified 11 actions needed to boost competitiveness and create regulatory breathing space for business. Building on this, we welcome the announcement by the European Commission to put forward an SME Relief Package in 2023. We believe this should comprise a real supportive set of measures tailored to SMEs and should focus on some specific priority actions.
For us, providing relief to European SMEs means identifying priority areas that can be counted using the fingers of one hand. First, better regulation and, in particular, the way the impact of legislative proposals on SMEs is assessed. We need to improve the quality and the effectiveness of the EU SME Test. Second, while SMEs show commitment to the green transition, it is crucial to continue the path of sustainability by supporting companies with financial solutions, SME-friendly incentives, and ad-hoc programmes. Third, online access to information should be facilitated, and the best way to do so is to provide business with all procedures and necessary information in one Single Market access point. Fourth, the ongoing revision of the Late Payment Directive should focus on some key pillars, such as tackling late payment from public authorities, preserving freedom of contract in B2B transactions and supporting a business culture in which prompt payment is the norm. And fifth, access to finance. We believe that some upcoming EU initiatives should be tailored to ensure a fair business environment and support SMEs financing and investment efforts.
If we want to support European SMEs in these challenging times, let’s start counting to five. And let’s not forget: sometimes less is more. Read our input to the SME Relief Package and our views on the revision of the Late Payment Directive.
Contact: Daniele Olivieri
Following the announcement by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to simplify and significantly reduce reporting requirements for companies by 25%, BusinessEurope sent her a letter to stress the need to reduce reporting obligations for companies in ongoing legislative processes. The letter gives concrete examples on how to apply this measure to legislative proposals currently being drafted or negotiated. We also stressed that regulatory compliance costs go well beyond reporting obligations. They keep mounting in the European Union, making the EU investment environment less favourable compared to our global competitors and significantly increasing compliance costs for companies. Therefore, we believe that urgent wider action is still needed to create regulatory breathing space for European companies and restore our competitive edge.
The future due diligence framework should work as an enabler to help companies operate in more sustainable supply chains and face local challenges proactively. A purely punitive approach is counterproductive and goes against the objectives of this draft legislation. It will force companies to pull out from value chains in third countries at the expense of local communities that depend on the investment and engagement of European companies. It will also make it difficult to bring into Europe raw materials that are essential for our green transition. To be effective, the new rules need to be workable and deliver a good degree of harmonisation so that legal certainty is ensured. These were the main messages conveyed by Pedro Oliveira, Legal Director at BusinessEurope at the two-day international conference “The Prism of Sustainability”, organised by the University of Macerata on 30-31 March.
Contact: Pedro Oliveira
“The Regulatory Cooperation Forum established by the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has achieved some important results on issues of common interest, like consumer product safety. For cosmetic-like products, it has reduced costs for many EU businesses that are no longer obliged to double test their exports to Canada”, said Eleonora Catella, BusinessEurope Deputy Director for International Relations at the event “CETA 5 year anniversary: a platform for partnership”, organised by the Mission of Canada to the EU on 29 March. However, the EU and Canada should take further advantage of being like-minded partners and deepen their regulatory cooperation. Involvement of stakeholders and transparency are fundamental ingredients for the endeavour to be successful. “Looking forward, we should be more ambitious and explore areas that are relevant for the green transition, like clean tech, to ensure that both sides adopt compatible approaches in their respective regulations”, she added.
Contact: Eleonora Catella
Recent trends on trademarks and designs filings, and the measures adopted by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in response to the the Russian war in Ukraine were some of the topics discussed in the User Association Meeting organised by EUIPO on 27 March. The event also tackled the SME Fund and related initiatives to support small and medium-sized enterprises to improve their competitiveness through the strategic use of intellectual property rights, as well as legal and IT updates. BusinessEurope Senior Adviser Elena Bertolotto and the Chairman of the Trade Marks and Designs Working Group, Martina Eberle, stressed that we are strongly committed in maintaining links with EU IP experts and cooperating with the EUIPO to continue improving the EU IP system and ensure that it remains user-focused.
Contact: Elena Bertolotto
European, American, Japanese, Korean and Chinese patent users' representatives (BusinessEurope from the European side) met virtually with the representatives of the five biggest patent offices (IP5) in the world on 29 March to discuss topics related to the harmonisation of patent practices and procedures. Industry representatives discussed the recent development on the so-called Global Dossier, the work on new emerging technologies and artificial intelligence, as well as global assignment. Elena Bertolotto, Senior Adviser at BusinessEurope, presented the industry’s proposals on the possible harmonisation of e-signature requirements before the IP5 Offices. The starting point is that patent users need a way to facilitate the process of complying with signatures when filing documents in different jurisdictions. This applied particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, when an increasing number of inventors in many countries frequently worked remotely. “The industry’s proposal is intended to bring advantages in terms of efficiency and cost savings for businesses, while not requiring too many changes in the national legislations”, she stated. Following this meeting, the industry plans to address the IP5 Offices’ comments to allow this proposal to be presented for adoption in the coming months.
Contact: Elena Bertolotto
- 6 June: Reuters Event: Responsible Business Europe 2023
- 14-15 June: International IP Enforcement Summit
- 19-20 June: TDI23 – Day of Industry
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