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(English) Turan Suleymanov. Introduction to European Union trade policy and decision-making procedure
Среда Апрель 27th, 2016

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The Common Commercial Policy (CCP)

The European Union’s position in the international trade is formed as a part of the European foreign and security policy that also includes other affairs such as military capacity, human rights, democracy and others.  Despite the traditional foreign policy within the Union which belongs to the intergovernmental decision process, international trade policy of the Union is included in community pillar and has supranational characteristic. The EU’s internal coordination of the interest areas on the trade policy among the member states is regulated in the Article 133. The special committee – the Article 133 Committee — has been founded to deal with the decision making process on the trade related issues until they reach the General Council.  Decisions in the Committee and the Council are supposed to be taken with the qualified majority but usually the decisions are taken in the consensus. Negotiations between the Commission and the member states in order to discuss the issues, take place in Geneva.  After internal coordination of the EU trade policy, the Commission speaks out for the Union in the WTO platform on the international trade related issues.

EU Trade Policy on any given goods or services is shaped by the existing EU policies on that goods or services and as well as EU’s obligation under the WTO.

EU trade decision-making procedure

The European Union’s trade policy as one of the major areas of Community competence has origin from the Treaty of Rome (EEC) and it is about reconciling national policy objectives, sectional interests, and regulatory provisions with the broader, external aims of the EU, and with the international forces and multi-level negotiations and rules that constitute international environment within which EU trade policy is operational. [1]

Articles 131-134 of the Treaty of Rome, enclose the key provisions of the Common Commercial Policy. Article 131 describes the aim of the creation of the CCP between member states that  “..to contribute,  in the common interest, to the harmonious development of world trade, the progressive abolition of restriction on international trade and lowering of customer barriers”. The cornerstone of the CCP relies on the Article 133 which it defines CCP role that: “the CCP shall be based on uniform principles, particularly in regard to changes in tariff rates, the conclusion of tariff and trade agreements, the achievement of uniformity in measures towards the liberalization of export policy and in measures to protect trade such as those to be taken in the case of dumping or subsidies.”

In the international arena, the Commission established itself as negotiator of the EU’s trade interests, of course under the watch of the member governments. In fact, EU decision-making process for multilateral trade negotiations is more complex that it might seem. Briefly, European Commission initiate the process by proposal of the negotiation position that coordinated by DG Trade to Council of Ministers,  then in the Council of Ministers,  Article 133 Committee advices the Council  and decision are made within the council on the bases of qualified majorities. Article 133 Committee consists of trade experts from each member states and is chaired by the chairman of the current holder of the EU presidency.  The European Commission regularly consults the Article 133 Committee and in the international trade negotiations, acts upon its recommendations. Of course, the European Parliament and civil society organization have also certain involvement and pressure to the judgment of the balance between different sectional  interests. [2]

In response to the national and international developments, through particularly successful rounds of GATT/World Trade Organization negotiations the European Union’s Trade policy has gone through a tremendous evolvement.  This evolvement of the EU’s trade policy covers from the initial stage of creating custom union and common policies, to responding to trade liberalization of agriculture products between US, to the multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations in the WTO framework.

Scholars argue that the EU trade policy is shaped by both internal and external factors. Domestic factors such as sectional lobbies are having increasing impact on the shape of the EU trade policy. External factors also shape the EU trade policy. One of the examples of the external factors that keep the European experts busy and considered its foreign policy was the multilateral trade negotiations with the US.   The agreement with the central Asian countries in 1990s, with Russia and the EU’s Mediterranean partners could also be very good examples of external factors. [3]



Turan Suleymanov (Turan Suleymanoglu)

Professor of Management

The International School of Economics


[1] Wallace H, Wallace W, Pollack A, Policy Making in the European Union Oxford University press 2005, pp.377-400

[2]              Ibid. 377-400

[3]              Paola Conconi , The EU Common Commercial Policy and

Global/Regional Trade Regulation, http://www.ecares.org/ecare/personal/conconi$/web/EUtrade.pdf



  1. Interesting read. Just a factual point, it was called the 133-committee but nowadays it’s name is the Trade Policy Committee (the TPC).

    Also in an article like this with regard to trade and its intermingling with foreign affairs policy at large it is interesting that the entire piece is devoid of mentioning TTIP and CETA?

    • Dear Bob,
      Thanks for the comment. Good points… In fact, it is now called TPC and explained in article 207(3).The TPC deals with trade policy matters within 3 main areas: issues related to the World Trade Organisation (WTO),bilateral trade relations and new EU legislation within the trade policy area when it needs to be examined by the Council.
      Regarding TTIP and CETA, I tried to narrow down my cope. My aim was to inform our readers about general procedure and basics of EU trade policy.
      In this forum, we try to rather come up with shorter articles. That is why I did not include TTIP,CETA and other topics.. It could be a topic of another discussion.
      I would encourage you to actively participate in this forum. I will be more than glad to see your position on the ongoing TTIP and CETA negotiations..

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