The EU is a major trade power due to the importance of the European Single Market and therefore concluded, or is negotiating, trade agreements with countries and regions all around the world. These trade agreements are essentials to facilitate access of goods and services to and from the European markets. European publishers are strongly export-oriented as one-fifth of their turnover comes from export, amounting to € 4 - 5 billion per year. FEP therefore follows European trade policy as counterfeiting and piracy in third countries affects European companies, including publishers, on a large scale.

There are three types of EU Trade Agreements: Customs Unions, which eliminate customs duties in bilateral trade and establish joint customs tariffs for foreign importers; Association Agreements (alongside Stabilisation Agreements, Free Trade Agreements and Economic Partnership Agreements), which strive to remove or reduce customs tariffs in bilateral trade; and Partnership and Cooperation Agreements, which provide a general framework for bilateral economic relations without touching customs tariffs.

Intellectual property rights are regularly included by the Commission in dedicated chapters during the negotiations of trade agreements in order to ensure the proper protection of European rightsholders’ legitimate interests abroad. In addition, the EU regularly hosts IP dialogues with third countries (for instance with China, Russia, Ukraine or Brazil) which are also opportunities to give feedback on their IPR legislation, to help address problems that EU industries encounter in their daily operations and to exchange best practices and to discuss concrete issues. Through these IP dialogues, the Commission aims to establish a positive relation with local authorities, to create a favourable atmosphere for discussion, and to find solutions for cases reported by European rightsholders.

In March 2019, DG TRADE launched a public consultation to identify third countries where IPR protection and enforcement is a cause for concern, as well as to update the European Commission’s report on the protection and enforcement of IPR rights in third countries. The report based on this consultation was released in January 2020.

According to the findings, the level of counterfeiting and piracy remains high and is reinforced by weak IP enforcement as well as weak sanctions and penalties in a number of third countries. The report also takes stock of the evolution of the situation in some key third countries (such as China, India or Indonesia) as well as the bilateral actions taken, such as through IP cooperation programs or IPR SME helpdesks.

In November 2020, FEP submitted a new contribution for the 2020 update of the report. In February 2020, the Commission launched a public consultation to update its Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List. The aim was to identify online and physical marketplaces (cyberlockers, stream ripping websites, peer-to-peer, etc.) located outside of the European Union, that engage in or facilitate substantial IPR infringements and, in particular, piracy and counterfeiting. The list, managed by 33 DG TRADE, aims to encourage the operators of these marketplaces, local enforcement authorities and governments to take action in cracking down on IPR abuse as well as to raise awareness of problematic markets among consumers.

In May 2020, FEP submitted a contribution to this list to reflect the challenges faced by publishers. In June 2020, the Commission announced it would undertake a Trade Policy Review. Its main objectives are to ensure the continuous flow of goods and services worldwide in the context of a more challenging environment, to reform the World Trade Organisation and to make trade part of the European “Open Strategic Autonomy”, which aims to reinforce the EU’s international leadership, increase its protection against unfair practices and allow it to assert its rights under international law and trade agreements. In September 2020, FEP organised events with IPKey Latin America to discuss the challenges for publishers in Latin America and how the new Copyright Directive could be used as a model for the continent.

FEP praised the collaboration with DG Trade to help protect the rights of publishers in third countries and explained the effects of piracy in the region on European publishers as well as the numerous factors contributing to it in Latin America. In March 2021, FEP organised a meeting with DG Trade together with IPA to do a general review of the current trade negotiations and processes involving IP protection and to share the difficulties faced by publishers in a number of third countries.