The EU and the Rise of Regionalism

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London School of Economics and Political Science
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European Foreign Policy Unit Working Paper
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During the course of 2005/6 the EU shifted policy on free trade agreements (FTAs) towards the more active negotiation of preferential trade agreements. This shift in policy was set out in the Global Europe policy paper of October 2006. Prior to 006 the EU had maintained de facto moratorium on the negotiation of new preferential agreements after 1999. Although there was no explicit articulation of this moratorium, it was understood by both the European Commission, which has the lead when it comes to negotiating trade agreements for the EU, and the Member States of the EU that the priority should be the promotion of the EU’s comprehensive agenda for the multilateral trading system of the WTO. After about 1996 the EU had been the main proponent of a new and comprehensive multilateral round of trade negotiations under the aegis of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). But progress at the multilateral level had been slow. After repeated failures a new round of trade negotiations was launched in 2001 in Doha; the Doha Development Agenda. But by 2005 it was clear that the EU had not succeeded in its aim of a comprehensive agenda. Some key issues of interest to the EU, such as the so-called Singapore issues of investment, competition and government procurement had been dropped from the agenda. Even the negotiations on more conventional topics of industrial tariffs and services had been scaled back in terms of their ambition. There was also a perception in EU trade circles that it was the EU and the EU alone that was making concessions, such as offers of liberalisation and reduced subsidies for agriculture, in order to keep the negotiations going.

Regionalism, European Union