The Council today adopted conclusions on the negotiation and conclusion of EU trade agreements. The conclusions set out the key principles underpinning the Council’s approach towards trade negotiations from now on.
This new approach results mainly from the European Court of Justice’s opinion on the division of competences between the EU and its member statesfor the conclusion of the EU-Singapore FTA. In its judgment, the Court ruled that only the provisions relating to non-direct foreign investment and the regime governing dispute settlement between investors and states were of ” shared competence” nature.
It also follows up on President Juncker’s 2017 state of the union speech and the Commission’s communication on “A balanced and progressive trade policy to harness globalisation” which highlights the need to ensure the legitimacy and inclusiveness of negotiation and adoption processes in trade policy, irrespective of whether the final decision for adoption takes place only at the EU level or also at member states’ level.
In the conclusions, the Council takes note of the Commission’s intention to recommend to splitting between separate agreements provisions related to investment, which would require approval by the EU and all its member states, and other trade provisions falling under the exclusive competence of the EU. The text also sets out how the Council intends to approach this issue in the future, including in the specific cases of agreements with Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
The conclusions also focus on the role of the Council in the negotiations, in particular its involvement throughout all the stages of the negotiating process, and the importance of working to reach consensual decisions, to the greatest extent possible, in order to ensure that all member states’ interests and concerns are adequately respected in trade agreements.
In its conclusions, the Council stresses the importance of keeping all interested stakeholders, including national parliaments and civil society, informed of the progress and contents of trade agreements under negotiation.