Trade is a highly politicised issue, so it is surprising that it is not a bigger area of business for consultancies and law firms than it actually is. Moreover, the EU is the world’s biggest exporter of manufactured goods and services, and it is the biggest import market for over 100 countries.
Thanks to the Commission’s powerful competencies in EU trade law, businesses are sometimes involved in trade defence measures, primarily anti-dumping and anti-subsidy actions against imports from countries outside the EU. China is often at the centre of these disputes and this poses a challenge for multinational companies who often do not support legitimate trade complaints against China because of its market potential, and for fear of retaliation and the potential interruption of supply chains. Thanks to Donald Trump there has been more US-oriented trade defence work in Brussels which has benefitted a number of trade specialists such as DC Headquartered McLarty Associates. Free Trade Agreements have also been a source of trade business for firms representing sectors, standing to gain or lose from their conclusion.
There are also a number of leading trade lawyers in Brussels such as Laurent Ruessmann and Jochen Beck, Partners at Fieldfisher who are renowned for their work on international trade issues.
Brexit has not yet generated substantial amounts of Brussels lobbying work outside certain specific sectors like financial services and aviation. However, many of Brussels’ public affairs consultancies and law firms have set-up Brexit practices as their clients ask for more analysis and advisory services. Some British consultants in Brussels are very well placed to advise on general Brexit issues, for instance Chairman of Cambre Associates Tom Parker, who was recently elected as President of the British Chamber of Commerce EU and Belgium; as well as Jonathan Faull, Chairman at Brunswick and Robert Madelin, Chairman at FIPRA. However, in the future having consultants with an ear close to the ground in Paris and Berlin will become more important.