EU Business Law Working Papers 3/2018

Balázs Horváthy: The Values-Driven Trade Policy of the European Union

As the primary objectives of the European integration process in the 1950s aimed at deepening the economic cooperation between the Member States, the external dimension of the Community activities had predominantly of economic and trade-related nature. Accordingly, the objectives and principles of the Common Commercial Policy (CCP) were laid down in a homogeneous, consistent and relatively closed structure. This consistency was driven, above all, by the objective of the liberalization, which allowed the legal and policy framework of the CCP to develop in line with the Community’s free trade commitments to the international economic order, especially to the GATT. However, the expansion of the external policy horizon of the European Communities and the introduction of new policy fields led to conflicts of objectives more frequently, causing tensions between the CCP and other external policy areas. In other terms, the separation of the external activities presented dilemmas above all in policy decisions when the policy areas concerned had overlapping or conflicting objectives. Consequently, e.g. the economic sanctions might have been practically difficult to impose, because the policy decision required not only the economic and trade concerns to be taken into account, but the foreign policy interests had to be reflected as well. In other words, the main question was whether the CCP could be determined in isolation of its own logic based on the concept of the gradual, progressive liberalization, or values and concerns of other external policy fields, being not necessarily of trade-related nature, could (or should) be respected in the same way.

Due to the Treaty of Lisbon the CCP has become an integral part of the European Union’s external action, which also established a general framework for values and principles, requiring the Union to pursue these concepts in the whole range of the EU external relations. Therefore, the functioning of the CCP is based on a two-level structure of values and principles now, which encompasses not only the proper, trade-related concepts, such as progressive liberalization, but includes several non-trade concerns, like protection of human rights, or promotion of sustainable development as well. Even though the Treaty succeeded in merging the diverging areas of the EU external action, the apparently more coherent construction does not firmly answer the question how the values and principles might relate to the specific concerns and needs of the CCP, and what role these concepts are playing in the operation of the EU trade policy.