Business outside the EU – main principles and tools

Do you want to find out different countries’ tariffs and required documents at the border? The EU commission’s database provides this free of charge.

Market Access Database

In the Market Access Database, you can find information on the rate of tariffs that apply, on the procedures required and on the documents you need when exporting goods to a particular country. You can also get an overview of the trade barriers that the EU is working on resolving with vis-a-vis different countries. You will also find an instructional video showing how to use the database. Go to the video

Principles of the WTO

The World Trade Organization's (WTO) trade rules apply to the 164 countries that are members of the WTO. The rules are found in a number of agreements, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). There is also an Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) containing rules that apply only between the WTO countries that have acceded to the GPA.

Main principles

  • Equal treatment – a WTO country must offer equal trade advantages to all WTO countries, both for trade in goods and in services. However, the principle can be waived for parties signing free trade agreements with each other.
  • National treatment – imported goods should be treated no less favourably than domestic goods. For trade in services, each country decides which service sectors this principle should apply to.
  • Transparency – countries must be open and transparent regarding laws and regulations affecting trade.

If your company does business outside of the EU, the World Trade Organization’s basic principles apply in relation to trade with other WTO member countries. But if the EU has a free trade agreement with a country or region, the rules in these agreements also apply.

Free trade agreements go more into depth

In recent years the EU, on behalf of all EU countries, has signed an increasing number of free trade agreements with various parties. These include Sweden as an EU member. Free trade agreements contain more rules, and more in-depth rules, than the general trade rules found in the WTO agreements. Free trade agreements contain rules on customs duties, but also on public procurement, intellectual property rights, sustainability, animal welfare and, for example, on cooperating to remove barriers to trade.
Countries with which the EU has a trade agreement (European Commission's website)