18 Colum. J. Eur. L. 277 (2012)

Boris Rigod, Ph.D. Researcher European University Institute (Florence).

This article links recent developments in EU  trade politics with the relevant rules governing the formulation of the common commercial policy. Its aim is to explain the domestic law regulating the EU’s current external trade relations. Since 2006 EU  trade policy has undergone a major shift from a policy of strict multilateralism towards selective bilateralism. To that end, the EU  has launched a “new generation” of free trade agreements (FTAs), which are today its principle means for opening foreign markets. Despite the fact that already many bilateral trade treaties are in place between the EU  and third countries, these new agreements mark a change in EU  trade policy in that, for the first time, purely commercial goals are pursued on a bilateral basis. This shift in policy is accompanied by  a major treaty amendment: the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which has a great impact on EU  external action in general and on trade policy in particular. One of the Treaty’s main features is to link the Union’s trade policy with its other foreign policies. In the context of the common commercial policy, this leads to some contradictions between the language of the law and actual EU trade policies. This paper identifies the relevant factors in the move towards bilateralism and provides an in depth analysis of EU  trade policies in the face of these changes.