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Safeguards are intended for situations in which an EU industry is affected by an unforeseen, sharp and sudden increase of imports.

Trade topics
  • Safeguards
  • Trade defence

Safeguards in a nutshell

The objective is to give the industry a temporary breathing space to make necessary adjustments – safeguards always come with an obligation to restructure.

Unlike anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures, safeguards do not focus on whether trade is fair or not, so the conditions for imposing them are more stringent.

The EU has to show that the increase in imports is:

  • sharp;
  • due to unforeseen developments;
  • causing (or threatening) serious injury to domestic industry (a higher level of injury than the material injury required for anti-dumping and anti-subsidy);
  • and that safeguards are in the interest of the EU (a requirement beyond WTO obligations).

Another essential feature of safeguards is that they apply to all such imports from all countries (this is called erga omnes).

EU trade policy and safeguards

The safeguard procedure is slightly different from anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures, and the decision to apply safeguards always has to be weighed very carefully. So far, safeguards have only been used sparingly by the EU.

Imports may also be subject to surveillance if the trend of imports of a product threatens to cause injury to EU producers.

Surveillance does not restrict imports – it is a system of automatic import licensing over a limited time – either retroactively or in advance.

As of 15 May 2020, the prior surveillance regime has been replaced by a monitoring system.

More on Safeguards

For more on the legal basis of trade defence measures, see Legal basis



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