External Trade Relations

Uniform regulation of duty rates and uniform principles for the conclusion of customs and trade agreements – these are the primary objectives of the common commercial policy, which was first mentioned more than fifty years ago in the Treaty of Rome. As it stands, it forms a uniform trade policy regime for Member States of the European Union in relation to non-member countries. It is one of the most important elements of the European Union’s external relations.

EU Member States do not act autonomously within the scope of the common commercial policy. It is the responsibility of the European Commission to submit proposals relating to the common commercial policy, to recommend the negotiation of international agreements and to pursue its own negotiations. As regards the negotiation of agreements, the European Commission consults a special body appointed by the EU Council and managed by a representative of the Presidency (the committee under Article 133 of the Treaty Establishing the European Communities). At its regular Friday meetings, representatives of Member States and the European Commission discuss trade policy issues.

Trade policy initiative

Promoting long-term economic growth and jobs in the EU and increasing the competitiveness of European undertakings – these are the short-term objectives of the common commercial policy, which is now determined by the trade policy initiative ‘Global Europe: Competing in the World’. This initiative was adopted in 2006.

The initiative aims to achieve its objective by opening up both the EU market and the markets of third countries. In particular, it is set to successfully complete liberalisation talks within the World Trade Organisation (WTO), conclude a new generation of bilateral free trade agreements, implement new strategies in relation to China, and improve market access strategies connected with the identification and removal of non-tariff barriers to trade.

The purpose of current multilateral trade negotiations in the context of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), besides opening up new markets, is to incorporate developing countries into the global economic system and to develop them with a view to the gradual eradication of poverty.

World Trade Organisation

All EU Member States are members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Another member, and also one of the key players, of the WTO is the European Community, represented within the WTO by the European Commission. In this respect, the European Commission implements the common commercial policy of the 27 EU Member States. The European Community supports the open, strong multilateral trading system represented by the WTO. The European Community, together with similarly minded WTO members, is committed to the successful conclusion of the next round of multilateral trade negotiations, which was suspended in July 2008 due to a disagreement between the US on the one hand, and China and India on the other, regarding a special defence mechanism for trade in agricultural products.

The most significant challenges of the DDA include: agricultural reform; liberalisation of trade in non-agricultural products and services; certain elements of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights; trade and the environment; and the facilitation of trade.

EU bilateral trade relations

The European Union also develops 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 arrangements, inter-regional initiatives, and other agreements. The most important preferential partners include the countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) / European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Mediterranean and Balkan states, Turkey, Mexico, Chile and South Africa. In the near future the EU would like to complete negotiations– concerning economic partnership agreements, aimed also at supporting development and regional integration, with groups of countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, as well as free trade agreements with the Persian Gulf countries and with a group of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. In keeping with the new strategy, talks were opened in 2007 with South Korea, India, the ASEAN states, the Central American states and the Andean Community. In 2008, negotiations were launched with Ukraine.

Priorities of the Czech Presidency

A liberal trading policy is one of the priorities of the Czech Presidency. The Presidency is in favour of a Europe open to the free movement of all production factors, and, in all these respects, is keen to fulfil the general motto of the Czech Presidency: ‘A Europe Without Barriers’.

The Czech Presidency will therefore focus on finalising and implementing all external initiatives making part of the strategy entitled ‘Global Europe: Competing in the World’. The World Trade Organisation’s multilateral trading system is the most effective way of managing global trade. Therefore, the Czech Presidency will seek to re-open the current round of multilateral trade negotiations and reach an agreement, or immediately implement the results of talks under the Doha Development Agenda. Generally, the goal is for third countries to steadily reduce the protection of their markets and create a level playing field for mutual trade.

The Czech Presidency will support the negotiation of free trade agreements with selected countries, as well as economic partnership agreements with other third countries. Attention will also be paid to the elimination of non-tariff barriers by capitalising on the new EU Market Access Strategy. The strategy is based on partnership between the European Commission, Member States and the business community.

The Czech Presidency would also like to close the debate on the review of trade defence instruments, which will result in further trade liberalisation and respect for the EU’s economic interests. Finally, the Presidency will employ all possibilities, including the negotiation of bilateral agreements, to improve the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights of EU undertakings on third markets and within the EU.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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