Multilateralism or Bilateralism: Trade Policy of the EU in the Age of Free Trade Agreements
In: Proceedings of the Conference on Emerging Economic Issues in a Globalizing World
Until 2006, trade policy of the European Union (EU) had mainly been focused on multilateralism embraced by the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). Meanwhile, the EU maintained an effective suspension on the opening of bilateral or regional negotiations where their increasing number was considered a ‘spaghetti bowl’ that creates problems for the international trading system. However, the suspension of the DDA negotiations in July 2006 forced the EU to reveal a new trade policy with the motto of “rejection of protectionism at home, accompanied by activism in creating open markets and fair conditions for trade abroad” which focuses on the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade of goods and services. Consequently, the EU gave pace to signing FTAs with its significant trade partners. This new trade strategy based on increasing FTAs and thus on bilateralism, which aims at the highest possible degree of trade, investment, and services liberalization, targets regulatory convergence and the abolishment of non-tariff barriers beside stronger provisions on intellectual property rights and competition. This paper discusses whether the new trade strategy of the EU leads to a distraction of the EU’s trade policy focus from multilateralism to bilateralism or it still remains committed to the WTO.
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