Pre-Competitiveness Council: 25th February 2016

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry)
My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) has today made the following statement.

The Competitiveness Council is taking place in Brussels on Monday 29 February. The Council will discuss matters relating to the internal market and industry. There will be no discussion of research, innovation or space. I will be representing the UK.

There are no legislative items on the agenda for this Council.

The first item will be a “competitiveness check-up” during which the Commission will give a presentation on the state of play of the real economy, focusing on start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs.

The next item is a policy debate on the circular economy package. This issue will be discussed in parallel by the Environment Council on 4 March.

We then expect to receive a presentation by both the Commission and the presidency of the Council of the EU (“the presidency”) on the steel industry before an exchange of view among member states. This item follows from the stakeholder conference on energy intensive industries which was held on 15 February and itself was an action arising from the extraordinary Competitiveness Council on steel in November 2015 last year. Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, the right hon. Anna Soubry, represented the UK at the conference and sought faster action by the Commission to deal with unfair trade practices. Single Market and Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska underlined that the Commission did not tolerate practices such as dumping and would continue to use trade defence instruments where necessary.

The next item on the agenda is presentation by the presidency on the European semester and the implementation of country specific recommendations to tackle barriers to growth. The discussion is likely to focus on how recommendations can help support the competitiveness agenda.

The final substantive item on the agenda is a policy debate and adoption of the Council conclusions on the single market strategy for services and goods.

There are four any other business items on the agenda: information from the presidency on the state of play of the unitary patent and unified patent court; information from the presidency on patents and plant breeders rights; information from the Commission on the current state of play of the renewed framework for transatlantic transfers of personal data (EU-US privacy shield) and an update from the Commission on the current legislative proposal of cross-border portability.

Our objectives for the Competitiveness Council are to:

Ensure that it gives a strong steer to the Commission that rapid and ambitious implementation of the single market strategy is a priority; and build on the discussions regarding the steel sector held at the extraordinary Competitiveness Council (November 2015) and stakeholder conference on energy intensive industries.