1 June 2011
2.1 Overview of EU Trade Policy
The EU has a common trade policy. This means that the EU and its 27 EU Member States act as one single jurisdiction in all trade-related matters. International agreements concluded by the EU are binding on the EU Institutions and on its Member States.
The legal basis for the EU’s trade policy is Article 207 of the Lisbon Treaty. On this basis, the European Commission negotiates on behalf of the Member States in consultation with a special committee, which used to be called the “133 Committee”, and is now the 207 Committee. The 207 Committee is composed of representatives from the 27 Member States and the European Commission. Its main function is to coordinate the trade policy of the EU. The 207 Committee discusses the full range of trade policy issues affecting the EU, from the strategic issues surrounding the launch of rounds of trade negotiations at the WTO to specific difficulties with the export of individual products (e.g., textiles), and considers the trade aspects of wider EU policies in order to ensure consistency of policy. In this Committee, the European Commission secures endorsement of the Member States on all trade policy issues. The major formal decisions (for example agreement to launch or conclude negotiations) are then confirmed by the Council of the European Union.
The objective of the EU’s Common Commercial Policy is to contribute, in the common interest, to the harmonious development of world trade, the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade, and the lowering of customs barriers.
The EU’s Common Commercial Policy covers all the main measures affecting trade in goods and services and almost all trade-related issues. Trade-related areas partially covered by the common trade policy include: company law, indirect taxation, standards and other technical regulations, and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
One of the most important aspects of the EU trade policy is that the EU is a customs union. The same import duties are charged on imports from third countries regardless of the country of entry. The main principles of customs law are regulated at EU level, although the customs authorities of the EU Member States are in charge of their application. In addition, trade remedies against unfair trade practices (i.e. anti-dumping and countervailing measures) and safeguards are adopted by the EU and imposed on the imports concerned regardless of the country of origin. Import regulations and export controls are also applicable EU-wide.