External Trade Relations of the EU – Common Trade Policy
The Common Trade Policy is the main and the most integrated part of the European Union's
External Relations. It was mentioned for the first time, more than 50 years ago in the Treaty
of Rome, and at the moment – according to Article 133 of the Treaty Establishing the
European Community – it forms a single trade policy vis-à-vis third countries for all 27
member states.
The Common Trade Policy is in the exclusive responsibility of the European Community. It is
based on a single regulation of customs tariffs and common principles for concluding customs
and trade agreements. Single principles also apply, with certain exceptions, to concluding
international agreements on services, trade aspects of intellectual property rights, codification
of liberalisation measures, export policy, and trade protection measures. The Common Trade
Policy of the EU also includes issues of a horizontal nature that affect international trade, such
as foreign investments, energy and raw materials safety, intellectual property issues,
economic competition and environmental protection and climate change.
EU member states are not entitled to act independently within the Common Trade Policy.
Only the European Commission has a monopoly on presenting proposals for implementing
the Common Trade Policy, on guidelines for concluding international agreements and on
pursuing trade negotiations. Based on a mandate granted by the EU Council , the European
Commission pursues both multilateral negotiations (with the World Trade Organization
members) and bilateral relations (with a particular country), and regional negotiations (with
another region). These negotiations may be about access to markets in industrial or
agricultural products and services, development cooperation or establishing and observing
international trade rules.
When negotiating agreements, the European Commission is assisted through consultations by
a special committee established by the EU Council – the Article 133 Committee. The 133
Committee is chaired by the representative of the country which is currently presiding on the
EU Council. Every Friday, the representatives of all member states and the European
Commission discuss a range of multilateral and bilateral trade policy issues, from strategic
intents to measures and problems in exporting and importing goods.
“Global Europe: Competing in the World” Initiative
The directions of the Common Trade Policy in the near future are set by the trade policy
initiative “Global Europe: Competing in the World,” adopted in 2006. Within the Lisbon
Strategy, the strategy paper deals with the question of how to contribute, through the
Common Trade Policy, to promoting long-term economic growth and employment in the EU.
The aim of the strategy paper is to improve the competitiveness of European enterprises. The
key for attaining this objective is the maximum opening up of both the Union's market and
third countries' markets. Therefore, the strategy paper defines particular initiatives, mainly the
successful conclusion of liberalisation negotiations in the World Trade Organization, the
conclusion of a new generation of bilateral agreements on free trade, implementing a new
strategy for China, improving the strategy for access to a market linked to identifying and
removing non-tariff trade barriers.
Other particular actions, by which the EU intends to enhance competitiveness, include
strengthening the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, facilitating access
of the Union's bidders to public procurement, and reflecting trade protection instruments.
Multilateral Trade System – the World Trade Organization (WTO)
All member states of the European Community are members of the World Trade Organization
(WTO). At the same time, the European Community is also a member of WTO, represented
by the European Commission. The European Community supports an open and strong
multilateral trade system represented by the WTO, and intends to press for strengthening of
WTO' s role, for enlarging and improving its system, and for the wider and much more active
participation of all its members.
The European Community, together with WTO members with similar opinions, is
endeavouring to successfully conclude a further round of multilateral trade negotiations – the
‘Doha Development Programme’ (DDA). This includes a number of negotiation areas and
should link the issues of improving access to markets (trade liberalisation) with making
multilateral trade rules more precise or negotiating new ones. The most significant areas of
DDA include agricultural reform, liberalisation of trade in non-agricultural products and
services, some elements of the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights, trade and environment areas and facilitating trade. All agendas include the
“development aspect” - giving greater advantages to developing and least developed countries
to accelerate their deeper participation in the world trade system. Negotiations were
commenced in 2001 and although they should have been concluded in 2005, they are still
under way.
EU Bilateral Trade Relations
In addition to promoting the multilateral trade system, the EU is involved in developing trade
relations with individual states or groups of states. The bilateral dimension of the EU' s trade
relations is characterised by a large number of preferential agreements and arrangements,
inter-regional initiatives, and other agreements. The group of the most important preferential
partners includes the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Mediterranean and
Balkan states, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, and South Africa. At the moment, the EU intends to
conclude negotiations started several years ago, on agreements with the African, Caribbean,
and Pacific (ACP) group regions, with countries of the Persian Gulf and with MERCOSUR.
In 2007, in compliance with the new strategy, negotiations were commenced with South
Korea, India, the ASEAN states, countries of Central America, the Andean Community, and
the Ukraine.
The EU helps developing countries to access its market by providing unilateral advantages,
either according to the General System of Preferences or specific regulations for the countries
of Western Balkan, Moldova, and overseas territories.
Common Trade Policy Priorities of the Czech Presidency
In the long term, the EU promotes the maximum liberalisation of world trade. It ensures the
favourable access of the Union's goods into the third countries' markets by all available
instruments and opens up its market for foreign goods, while consistently observing
international trade rules, and if they are infringed it takes steps to protect the Union's interests.
A liberal trade policy is one of the main priorities of the Czech Presidency. The Czech
Presidency supports a Europe open to trade and investments and strives for third countries' to
reduce their markets' protection reciprocally and for the creation of fair conditions for mutual
trade.
Therefore, the Czech Presidency will focus on completing or pursuing all the particular
initiatives of the adopted strategy paper “Global Europe: Competing in the World”. The
Czech Presidency considers the WTO' s multilateral trade system to be the most efficient way
of governing world trade, so, depending on the development negotiations, it will endeavour to
reach an agreement within the Doha Development Programme or commence new
negotiations.
Within the bilateral relations, depending on the status of the current negotiations, the Czech
Presidency will support the conclusion of free trade agreements with selected countries.
Attention will also be paid to removing non-tariff trade burdens, using the Union's new
strategy of access to the market based on a partnership of the European Commission, member
states and the entrepreneurial sphere.
Priorities will also include concluding the debate on revising trade protection measures, which
will lead to further trade liberalisation and respecting the Union's economic interests. Last but
not least, all means will be used to improve the protection and enforcement of intellectual
property rights of Union entities both on third markets and inside the EU, including by
concluding bilateral agreements.