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, Trade & Customs, Regulatory, Government Affairs and International Tax/Transaction. 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 and life science sectors, 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.
Our regulatory team focuses on life science, i.e. pharmaceuticals, medical devices, cosmetics and foodstuffs. In the pharmaceutical sector, we advise from multinationals to small biotechs and trade associations on various regulatory issues, in particular the Paediatric Regulation, orphan products, life cycle management (including supplementary protection certificates), clinical trials and pharmacovigilance. The team assists medical device and cosmetic companies that wish to enter the EU market in navigating the EU legal environment; we advise on general issues, such as labeling and advertising, or more specific issues, such as borderline products. We also help our clients to understand the EU legislative system and we support their legislative actions. We provide our services both at the European level and the national level. Many questions remain governed by national law despite the adoption of an increasing number of EU legislations. For those pan-European questions, the practice works with a reliable network of local “boutique” law firms that enables us to cost-efficiently manage EU-wide assignments. The same applies to other parts of the world, where we work in close collaboration with our other offices or local boutique law firms. Worldwide production and distribution increasingly lead to worldwide harmonization of laws and regulations, which renders essential the capacity to address regulatory issues worldwide.
The double nature of our EU regulatory team allows us to handle complex projects that involve various categories of products and, more importantly, to offer our clients a full range of regulatory experience.
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—led by Dr. Günter Burghardt, the former European Union’s Ambassador to the United States and the former European Commission’s Director General for External Relations—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.
International Tax – Transactional practice
Our Brussels team’s transactional capabilities are part of the expanding practice throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe. We cover nearly every type of business transaction and restructuring, and are recognized as leaders in our areas of expertise. We use our local market knowledge and deep understanding of industry-specific issues to ensure that we provide the best solution for the clients.
In addition to general international tax consulting work, we primarily concentrate our activities in the three following areas:
Transfer Pricing and Litigation
Transfer pricing, by definition, involves coordinating legal strategy across multiple jurisdictions. More than just a European practice, Mayer Brown has created a fully integrated European Transfer Pricing Centre to coordinate pan-European matters, together, as the case may be, with the Americas and Asian teams. The European transfer pricing team is truly multi-office and cross-practice and headed from Brussels.
We are representing clients in transfer pricing audits and before courts (including Mutual Agreement Procedures and Arbitration). We also provide strategic assistance in non-contentious transfer pricing work such as transfer pricing documentation. Thanks to our close links with our Global trade practice, also based in Brussels, we have developed specific expertise in combining VAT, customs duties and transfer pricing aspects of our clients’ operations.
Our team is regularly involved in mergers, acquisitions, disposals and other reorganizations initiated by industrial groups and funds. Capitalizing on the unique strength of the firm in Europe, our practice is recognized as the place to go for transactions with cross-border components or with a high degree of leverage. We are also routinely involved in restructuring of existing financing arrangements.
Brussels is the heart of European policy developments and we are taking advantage of our proximity with EU institutions to closely follow and monitor new measures that may have an impact on day-to-day operations of our clients. Amongst those initiatives, we are particularly following the work of the European Commission on transfer pricing (EU Joint Transfer Pricing Forum) and Tax Governance (EU Platform for Good Tax governance), indirect taxes (VAT, excise duties, energy and financial taxation) and on direct taxation (common consolidated tax base). We are also at the forefront of OECD BEPS and WCO developments.
Our lawyers are or were appointed in many of European forums (such as the Platform for Good Tax Governance, the VAT Expert Group, the Joint Transfer Pricing Forum, etc.) and hold significant positions in international organizations.