Trade Policy

Core issues

The core issues of the trade policy unit have evolved in line with changes in the policy agenda. During the early years of the 2004 enlargement, the focus of the unit was on the development of trade and investment relations with the ‘new periphery’ as well as EU’s trade relation with its exiting (e.g. US and Japan) and emerging trade partners (e.g. China and ASEAN). Later the policy agenda have concentrated on the developments in multilateral trade negotiations and the Doha Development Agenda as there was a moratorium on bilateral negotiation by the then commissioner Pascal Lamy.

Today the priority of the EU’s trade policy is still unarguably the completion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations that started in November 2001. The Doha Round encompasses a wide variety of subjects such as rules and services as well as agriculture and non-agricultural market access and implementation of past agreements. The original deadline of 2005 for the completion of negotiations was missed and the negotiations were suspended after the Geneva Ministerial in 2006. Since then the focus of the EU’s trade policy has shifted to a new generation of emerging free trade agreements à la Global Europe.

The core issues for the EU’s future trade policy are i) completion of the Doha Round ii) monitoring and assessing the new bilateral free trade negotiations iii) horizontal issues such as trade and climate change, fair trade and trade defense instruments, etc. iv) existing trade and investment relations with major trade partners such US and Japan v) emerging trade partners and redefining the trade relationship with China.

Since the suspension of Doha Round of negotiations several other issues have also emerged as potentially interesting subjects for EU’s trade policy such as the governance of the WTO. Since the number of members have increased significantly in the WTO, the WTO decision making process of ‘single undertaking’ has been widely criticized by policy-makers as well as the inability of WTO to cope with emerging topics such as trade and climate change.

Future focus of unit

With specific reference to EU’s trade policy the most important development has been the start of negotiations with South Korea (concluded in July 2009), India, ASEAN and now with Canada for deep free trade agreements. There are also other free trade agreements ongoing which require special attention such as EU’s FTAs with partners of the ENP. Hence the primary policy agenda item is monitoring ongoing negotiations and an early assessment of the concluded agreements. As EU claims to be still committed to Doha Round and multilateralism, it is important to first analyze whether the new FTAs are WTO compatible and whether they can deliver the original promises of the Global Europe Communiqué. A potentially interesting topic for the unit is the new competences that will arise if and when the Lisbon Treaty is signed. One such topic of great significance is EU’s new competence to negotiate bilateral investment treaties with third parties. Currently member states negotiate individually with investment partners. It is important to address why EU needs a common investment policy and what should happen to the existing bilateral investment treaties (BITs). Other topical issues will also be on the agenda such as the trade impact of carbon border measures and liberalization of trade in environmentally friendly technologies.