Brussels is the hub of the European Union’s activity. With the seat of the European Commission and the European Parliament, Brussels is the center of EU policy, legislation and enforcement. Mayer Brown’s Brussels office reflects this environment with more than 20 dedicated lawyers and professionals in Antitrust & Competition, Government Affairs, Regulatory and Trade & Customs. Our lawyers and other professionals come from a range of disciplines relevant to our clients (e.g., accountancy, business research and science), and many have worked in national and international institutions (such as the European Commission, World Trade Organization and the European Court of Justice).
Antitrust & Competition
The Brussels-based Antitrust & Competition lawyers are an integral part of Mayer Brown’s global Antitrust & Competition group with more than 70 lawyers practicing competition law throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. We provide a one-stop shop for competition advice in complex international cases, and have successfully advised clients in challenging competition cases before competition and regulatory authorities, notably the European Commission, the German Federal Cartel Office and the UK CMA, and courts around the world. Members of our team are highly recognized in the world’s leading directories, such as Chambers Global, Chambers Europe, IFLR, Legal500, JUVE and Who’s Who.
Our team acts for some of the companies with the highest rates of M&A merger notifications worldwide (including two in the EU top 10) and works seamlessly in guiding clients through the labyrinth of international merger control. Members of our team have advised on many of the largest international cartel investigations and have been active at the cutting edge of the development and growth of leniency regimes in Europe and worldwide. We also have advised on a wide range of matters involving alleged abuse of dominance, including litigation before courts and complaints to competition authorities. We have advised extensively on State aid issues, including notifications to and investigations by the European Commission and related litigation, and public procurement law. In conjunction with litigation experts in other offices, we have extensive litigation experience concerning a broad variety of antitrust matters, including international arbitration and follow-on damages actions.
Our Antitrust & Competition team works seamlessly with lawyers in the wider firm to manage and mitigate a wide variety of regulatory risks, and in conducting related internal investigations and litigation.
Trade & Customs
Our Trade & Customs team is one of the most highly regarded of its kind in Europe. It is supported by lawyers and other professionals located in major business centers worldwide. We help our clients understand trade policy and comply with trade and customs laws in order to capitalize on opportunities and overcome market barriers in nearly every country.
In the field of trade defense, our lawyers have represented clients in every major EU trade defense investigation. These include: the 800+ EU companies in the largest anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations into solar products in 2012-2013; representing one of the largest global telecommunications companies in the first-ever simultaneous anti-dumping, anti-subsidy and safeguard investigations; the anti-dumping investigation into footwear as well as the investigations into biodiesel, bioethanol and aluminum wheels. In 2016, our Trade & Customs team secured a landmark judgment from the EU’s General Court invalidating anti-dumping duties imposed on bioethanol. The team is also active in guiding and advising clients on trade defense matters around the world — including in Brazil, China, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and India.
Our Trade & Customs team advises clients, including national governments, on their rights under the WTO agreements and accession to the WTO. Our trade lawyers have successfully acted in several major WTO disputes, including Clove Cigarettes (for Indonesia) and Shipbuilding (for Korea). In the Shipbuilding dispute we have not only successfully demonstrated that the corporate restructuring carried out by Korea during the Asia crisis occurred under arm’s-length conditions and did not constitute subsidization, but also prevailed in an offensive challenge of unilateral retaliation through subsidization of the EU shipbuilding industry. We are currently involved in several major pending WTO disputes, and the panel reports in these cases will have systemic implications for the interpretation of the GATS, TBT, GATT and TRIPs agreements.
Our Trade & Customs team also makes representations to EU institutions, member state authorities and governments in developing countries, on issues arising under multilateral and bilateral trade agreements. The team also advises clients on EU regulatory matters affecting trade including VAT, excise duty or other regulatory matters affecting free trade from the point of view of EU or WTO trade provisions.
The Trade & Customs team provides advice on such issues as tariff classification, rules of origin, customs valuation issues, duty suspensions and any other economic customs regimes. Specifically the team advises on tariff classification, customs valuation or rules of origin well beyond the EU borders. Its hands-on approach means that it assists clients in projects such as obtaining favorable tariff classification and valuation rulings from the World Customs Organization and national authorities and coordinating customs litigation in various EU Member States. Working with our firm’s International & Benelux Tax department enables us to also advise on the interplay between customs valuation and transfer pricing.
The team advises multinationals on their global sales transactions and services affected by EU, Belgian and US export control laws and political sanctions, often in close collaboration with the US and German or UK offices. The team also devises compliance and training programs for clients, which have become even more necessary as a result of the rising number of enforcement actions in these fields.
Our European regulatory team covers a very large spectrum of services with a focus on the chemical sector, and EU product safety and liability. We provide our clients with a full service offering on product regulations, advising them on the formation, interpretation, application and enforcement of EU and Member States regulations in our fields of concentration. This full assistance is complemented by extensive experience in litigation before the European Court and the Board of Appeal of the ECHA.
We have probably the most experienced legal team in Brussels on chemicals legislation, with expertise dating back long before the development of REACH. Since 2000, we assisted numerous trade associations in advocating their position under REACH and acted as project leader in the development of the ECHA data sharing guidance document. Our chemicals/REACH team also has years of experience in advising corporate clients (chemical companies, but also downstream users and article manufacturers in numerous sectors) to navigate through the maze of the REACH requirements.
Our full service offering on REACH includes issuing legal opinions on the status of specific substances, preparations and articles on all REACH processes; assisting companies on the various implications of REACH within the supply chain, on consortium, SIEF and data-sharing issues and related contractual issues; helping clients develop and implement product defense strategies for chemicals, targeted for substance evaluation, restrictions or the REACH authorization process, including related advocacy and legal support work; assisting clients preparing for REACH inspections in case of enforcement activities; and supporting our clients in actions before the ECHA Board of Appeal, where we have an unmatched success rate.
We also advise companies on other EU regulations on chemicals, including the Directive on biocides and pesticides and the CLP Regulation. We are also increasingly involved in advising companies on REACH-like legislation in other parts of the world, including Korea, China, Taiwan and other countries. We do so through the use of our extensive geographical network, as well as our in-depth knowledge of EU REACH, which is the model used in the development of such legislation.
Another core feature of our regulatory practice is our focus on counseling clients on, and handling, product safety and liability issues, including product withdrawals and product recalls.
We advise clients on the safety of their products (using existing risk assessment guidelines), on their notification obligations under the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) or other schemes in case of products presenting a risk. We also have experience in coordinating recalls of pan-European products and in ensuring contacts with the European Commission services in charge of RAPEX and RASFF procedures (DG Sanco) as well as other Commission services. For global recalls, our Brussels team counts on the expertise and support of product liability specialists in other EU Member States as well as in the United States. We have also been working closely with the European Commission on the review of the GPSD and the “New Legal Framework” on market surveillance that will affect the rights and obligations of all companies marketing consumer and non-consumer products in the EU.
Our EU Law & Policy practice assists clients in navigating and shaping EU rules. The team helps companies, industry and trade associations and governments understand the intricacies of EU law and policy and define their legal strategies to achieve their competitive objectives. Moreover, our strength in the cornerstones of EU law and policy that are critical to global business — competition, international trade and EU regulatory law — allows us to develop solutions tailored to our clients’ legal and policy concerns. Lawyers in our EU Law & Policy practice combine private- and public-sector experience and have a sophisticated understanding of EU institutions and policies. Our firm represents clients from different sectors on a wide variety of matters before the EU institutions and bodies, and relevant bodies of the Member States.