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EU to overhaul competition rules and tackle foreign subsidies

[BRUSSELS] The European Union plans to revamp its competition rules and act against foreign subsidies in a policy overhaul to help European companies to compete globally against US tech giants and Chinese-aided rivals, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

The new industrial strategy comes as the 27-nation bloc grapples with problems on multiple fronts. In addition to Britain's EU exit, there are trade tensions with the United States, rising competition from Chinese state-aided companies, the spreading coronavirus outbreak and the migrant crisis.

Having drawn criticism in some quarters over a lack of effective measures from several industrial policy changes in previous years, the EU said the focus this time is on digital and green issues as well as breaking down barriers in the single market.

"Managing the green and digital transitions and avoiding external dependencies in a new geopolitical context requires radical change - and it needs to start now," EU industry chief Thierry Breton said in a statement.

The Commission said the overhaul of competition rules, following calls from Germany and France for easier rules to promote European industrial champions, "will ensure that our rules are fit for purpose for an economy that is changing fast, increasingly digital and must become greener".

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The EU executive will adopt a discussion paper by mid-2020 to address foreign subsidies in the single market and tackle foreign access to EU public procurement and EU funding. Legislation is planned for next year.

The industrial strategy include measures to help the bloc to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

The Commission also announced an action plan for critical raw materials and a new pharmaceuticals strategy to secure Europe's industrial and strategic autonomy. 


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