European Union Policy Towards Free Trade Agreements

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Trade agreements differ according to their content: of course, this clear distribution does not mean that the ratification of free trade agreements lacks democratic legitimacy. Responsibility for trade policy rests with the EU; since the Lisbon Treaty, trade agreements must be ratified by the European Parliament. Nevertheless, Member States` parliaments should be informed in a timely and comprehensive manner of negotiations on free trade agreements in order to allow for a well-informed public debate. A transparent negotiation process also includes the publication of the European Commission`s negotiating mandates. The European Union negotiates free trade agreements on behalf of all its member states, as EU member states have granted „exclusive jurisdiction“ to conclude trade agreements. Nevertheless, the governments of the Member States control every step of the process (through the Council of the European Union, whose members are the national ministers of each national government). In June 2018, the European Council stressed the need to maintain and deepen the rules-based multilateral system, amid growing trade tensions around the world. The EU manages trade relations with third countries in the form of trade agreements. They aim to create better business opportunities and overcome the obstacles associated with them. The ongoing trade negotiations between the EU and third countries are as follows: trade agreements are generally very complex, as they are legal texts covering a wide range of activities, from agriculture to intellectual property. But they share a number of fundamental principles. According to the European Commission, the MIC would replace the bilateral investment justice systems that participate in EU trade and investment agreements. The European Union has free trade agreements [1] and other agreements with a trade component with many countries around the world and negotiates with many other countries.

[2] Published in November 2020 and foreword by DG Commerce Director-General Sabine Weyand (other languages), the report on the implementation of the EU Free Trade Agreement (other languages) provides an overview of the achievements of 2019 and remarkable work for the EU`s 36 main preferential trade agreements. The accompanying staff working document provides detailed information in accordance with the trade agreement and trading partners. Many of the EU`s trade agreements are still being ratified and are only being implemented temporarily. CETA is a mixed agreement. Chapters under the exclusive competence of the Union are currently being applied on an interim basis, with ratification not yet completed in the Member States. On the other hand, the chapter on investment protection is not yet implemented until ratification by members. The EU and Singapore have negotiated a free trade agreement and an investment protection agreement, two separate treaties. The trade agreement came into force at the end of 2019, after the approval of the European Parliament and the Council. The investment protection agreement still needs to be ratified by all Member States according to their own national procedures. In mid-2019, the EU signed a trade agreement and an investment protection agreement with Vietnam.

The free trade agreement with Vietnam was approved by the European Parliament in February 2020; Vietnam has already complied with EU requirements for compliance with international labour standards. The free trade agreement is expected to enter into force in the summer of 2020. On May 22, 2018, the Council adopted conclusions on how trade agreements are negotiated and concluded. However, negotiations on free trade agreements have become increasingly controversial in the general public. The transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) negotiations, the EU-US free trade agreement, are an example. Negotiations on the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement (CETA) have also been controversial.