Client name: European Commission (DG TAXUD)

Duration: 2010 – 2014

Location: European Union

Coffey conducted the first impact evaluation of the Europeans Union’s Tariff Suspensions Scheme, which has been in force over 40 years.  


The Tariff Suspensions Scheme provides the European Union’s (EU’s) manufacturing businesses with an opportunity to import raw materials, semi-finished goods and other components that are not available within the EU at zero or reduced duty rates.

In principle, any business located in the EU can apply for a tariff suspension, provided it can demonstrate that the goods being imported fulfill a series of specific requirements. The suspension system has been in force for over 40 years, and by the end of 2011 more than 1600 products were under tariff suspension.

Coffey was commissioned to undertake the first ever evaluation of the scheme in its 40 year history.


The evaluation assessed both the impact of the scheme and the way in which it is implemented. Its purpose was to contribute to evidence-based policy-making, test the economic and societal value of the system, and identify possible improvements.

Due to the size and duration of the scheme, the evaluation needed to be evidence-based and required a careful multi-method approach. Our team worked with a partner company, Europe Economics, to deliver the most robust results possible.

Multiple-method approach for robust results:

  • Desk-based research: Review and analysis of existing secondary data from a variety of sources, in particular EU trade data from the COMEXT (the EU’s reference database for external trade)
  • Surveys and questionnaires: To collect input and feedback from interested parties, we used three separate questionnaires and surveys - for national authorities (22 responses), applicant companies (122 unique responses) and EU businesses (91 responses)
  • In-depth interviews - 53 interviews with representatives of national authorities, businesses, trade associations, organisations representing the interests of countries with special trading agreements, and Commission officials from different services
  • 12 case studies. Each case study focused on one product for which the import duties were suspended for all or part of the period from 2007 to 2011, or which completed the application process during this period


The evaluation found that the core reasoning for the Tariff Suspension Scheme remained as valid today as it did in its inception 40 years ago.

In the absence of the need to protect local production, a reduction in tariffs is beneficial to EU businesses and, by extension, the EU economy as a whole.