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Building a Common Commercial Policy in Times of Euroscepticism

Presentation and Discussion of Papers_Maio2017_2

This Monday and Tuesday the Nova Law School, in Lisbon, will be hosting the conference ‘The Federal Experience of the European Union: Past, Present and Future’. On Monday I will be presenting a paper titled ‘ Building a Common Commercial Policy in Times of Euroscepticism’.

Here is the abstract:

The consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union endowed the European Union with exclusive competence in the area of common commercial policy. Under the new institutional architecture, the European Commission conducts negotiations in consultation with and under the directives issued by the Council of the European Union. The role of the European Parliament in the field of commercial policy has also been fortified, making it an important actor in the field of external relations. The European Parliament has the right to be regularly updated during negotiations, and its consent is required before any agreement is concluded. The negotiation of international trade and investment agreements has been attracting ample controversy. There is a growing anti-trade rhetoric in political speeches and campaigns across Europe. A number of civil society organisations has also been vigorously working to increase mobilisation against agreements such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). One of the most prevalent critiques is the perceived lack of transparency of the negotiation process. The European Union is represented in the negotiation process by officials from the European Commission Directorate-General for Trade who meet with officers from partner countries in private. According to some, the negotiation behind closed doors of an international agreement with tremendous economic and social impact goes against democratic values. This criticism is part of a larger, older debate about the perceived lack of transparency in European Union decision-making processes. This paper reviews the limited experience of the European Union in the use of its exclusive competence in the field of international trade agreements and discusses the challenges it currently faces. International trade negotiations have been described in the literature as part of a ‘two-level game’ composed of an international level and a domestic level. In the international dimension, negotiations involve a broad assortment of actors, including national governments, corporations, non-governmental organisations, and consumer groups. All of these entities pursue different interests and seek to influence not only on the outcome of the negotiations but also the way they are conducted. In the domestic dimension, organised lobby groups, such as political parties, business corporations, trade unions, non-governmental organisations, and local and regional governments, exert strong influence on national governments in an attempt to steer its trade policy. The inherent complexity of trade negotiations is further augmented in the context of the European Union. Designing and implementing a Common Commercial Policy raises particular difficulties that need to be addressed by European institutions in order to promote the economic and social progress of the Union. This paper discusses the specific political, economic, and legal challenges that the Common Commercial Policy raises for the European project, namely the need to involve a large variety of stakeholders, civil society organisations, and national parliaments in the decision-making process so as to ensure its democratic legitimacy.

 

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