European Union Law and Practice in the Negotiation and Conclusion of International Trade Agreements

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As the world's largest trading block, the European Union (EU) has committed itself to an ambitious strategy of enhancing trade with its strategic partners through the conclusion of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The launching of negotiations between the EU and the United States for the conclusion of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement is part of this strategy. Understanding the EU's law and practice in the negotiation and conclusion of such agreements is essential for the Union's negotiating partners, who have often been puzzled by its decision-making complexity. Following a systematic presentation of the EU's institutions and their legal functions in the making of trade agreements, this Article provides an in-depth and step-by-step analysis of the EU's inter-institutional and legal practice in the negotiation and conclusion of international trade agreements. As such, this Article also constitutes a thorough assessment of the changes brought by the Treaty of Lisbon in the trade policy field. After almost three years of practice, it can be concluded that the enhanced role of the European Parliament in the making of trade agreements is the Lisbon Treaty's most important change in this area. Far from being the disruptive element that a number of prominent legal scholars had predicted, Parliament has not only brought a much needed element of democratization and open political debate in EU trade policy making, it has also delivered proof of its added value, notably by reinforcing the preservation of fundamental rights. The next step should be for Parliament to gain a formal role in the determination of the EU's negotiating directives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-316
Number of pages58
JournalJournal of International Business & Law
Issue numberSpring 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • European Union
  • International Trade
  • Common Commercial Policy
  • International Agreements
  • Free Trade Agreements
  • Negotiations


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