March 31, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 90


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Commission Waives Customs Duties and VAT on the Import of Vital Medical Supplies from Third Countries

On April 3, 2020, the Commission approved the request from Member States and the UK to temporarily waive customs duties and VAT on the import of medical devices, and protective equipment. This marked a further step from the Commission to ensure medical equipment is available to Member States.

In this contest, according to the Commission, vital medical supplies include masks and protective equipment, as well as testing kits, ventilators, and other medical equipment. The duty relief will apply for a period of six months.

The measure at stake represented one of eight steps taken on trade policy in the context of the coronavirus crisis. Accordingly, on April 7, 2020, the EU notified to the World Trade Organization about its eight steps that were either new measures or guidance covering existing legislation. The measures were taken as an attempt to fulfill G20 commitments to provide full transparency of all policies that affect international trade. The other seven steps included measures in numerous fields of action that touch upon many aspects of international trade operations, such as:

  • Border management, including Green Lanes to ensure availability of essential goods and services;

  • Facilitation of air cargo operations;

  • Human, animal and plant health, and animal welfare measures to contain risks linked to control system disruptions due to coronavirus;

  • Public procurement guidance relating to emergency provisions in current legislation to allow for quicker purchasing of necessary goods; and

  • Export authorization requirements to support the adequacy of supply and meet vital demand for personal protective equipment in the EU.

The measures came at a time of trade controversies between EU Member States as several were considering bans on exports of protective equipment in an attempt to avoid shortages at home, which would have been contrary to the EU’s free movement of goods principle. In this regard, Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides called for “solidarity” among EU Member States, which led most national governments to abandon such bans and instead support the introduction of a general EU-wide export authorization scheme.

Copyright 2023 K & L GatesNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 127

About this Author

Philip Torbøl, KL Gates, cartel investigations lawyer, merger control attorney

Philip Torbøl is a founding partner of the firm’s Brussels office. His practice focuses on EU competition law and government strategies.

Mr. Torbøl’s competition experience includes advising clients in matters related to the conduct of dominant companies, cartel investigations, merger control, and state aid.  In addition to defending clients before European institutions, Mr. Torbøl’s practice focuses on helping companies define their distribution strategies within the framework of EU competition law – not only preventively, but also to ensure...

Mélanie Bruneau Regulatory Compliance Attorney

Mélanie Bruneau is a partner in the firm’s Brussels office. She advises on a broad range of areas in European Law. Her practice focuses on advising clients in a variety of industrial sectors, including transport, manufacturing, chemicals and IT, on the legal aspects of their business activities, with a particular emphasis on regulatory compliance. 

Ms. Bruneau advises large multinationals on all aspects of EU competition law. She has significant experience in cartel investigations. Ms. Bruneau was also involved in the first cartel settlement and in the first hybrid cartel settlement...

Giovanni Campi, KL Gates Law Firm, Financial Services Policy Director
Financial Services Policy Director

Giovanni Campi is financial services policy director in the Brussels office. Mr. Campi, a non-lawyer, has experience of assisting with advocacy strategy, policy analysis, and interest representation on various financial services dossiers, including Supervision, Recovery and Resolution, Capital Requirements, Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), and Benchmarks, among others.

Francesco Carloni, KL Gates, EU merger control attorney, dominant position abuse lawyer

Francesco Carloni is a partner in the firm’s Brussels and Milan offices where he is a member of the antitrust, competition & trade regulation practice group.

As a European and Italian competition law practitioner, Mr. Carloni’s experience primarily lies in the field of merger control, , restrictive practices and agreements, e-commerce, abuse of dominant position, EU sector inquiries, public consultations, and state aid. He offers compliance training and develops customized compliance programs adapted to clients' specific risk profiles. He...

Miguel A. Caramello Alvarez Counsel  Brussels Antitrust, Competition & Trade Regulation

Miguel Caramello Alvarez is a counsel at the firm’s Brussels office. He is a member of the antitrust, competition and trade regulation practice group.

He is a regulatory and competition lawyer with extensive experience in the transport sector, in particular on rail. Within his practice, he focuses on all aspects of EU and international rail transport law, competition law and state aid, public procurement, market access and public policy. He provides regulatory and competition representation before the European Commission and other national competition authorities, national rail...