- The rapid growth in cross-border trade in services, sparked in part by the internet, has inspired the European Commission (EC) to try to remove bureaucratic obstacles to such transactions, in areas including transport, accounting, marketing and after-sales care.
The Commission announced last week a strategy "to eliminate by the end of 2002 all barriers that can currently prevent a business model successfully pioneered in one Member State from being introduced elsewhere in the (European) Union."
"The spread of the internet and other aspects of the Information Society has sparked a new dynamic in services, by cutting the cost of transmitting and acquiring information and accelerating the rate of diffusion of innovation across national borders. There is thus vastly increased potential for cross-border demand and supply of services in the Internal Market," the Commission says.
The drive applies not only to services delivered via the web, but also to cross-border business opportunities identified on-line but then carried out off-line, the Commission add.
If the EU employed the same percentage of people in the services sector as the US, it could create 36 million new jobs, says Internal Market commissioner Frits Bolkestein, according to the statement.
Over 47% of EU companies delivering services outside their home countries derive 10% or less of their turnover from cross-border trade, according to a Commission survey.
The two-year strategy consists of two parts. During 2001, the Commission plans to conduct a survey of "several thousand EU enterprises" to determine what barriers continue to stand in the way of cross-border service provision.
In 2002, the Commission plans to present a "systematic and comprehensive list" of these barriers to member states, with a request that they remove them. The Commission will only propose centrally harmonised rules "where strictly necessary," it adds.