EU Policy on Preferential Trade Agreements in the 2000s: A Reorientation towards Commercial Aims

Published date01 November 2014
Date01 November 2014
EU Policy on Preferential Trade
Agreements in the 2000s: A Reorientation
towards Commercial Aims
Stephen Woolcock*
Abstract: The aim of this article is to provide a general introduction to EU policy on
preferential trade agreements (PTAs) and thus to serve as a background for the more
detailed discussion of the constitutional issues involved in EU PTAs. It starts with a
description of how EU policy evolved during the 2000s, arguing that EU policy was
predominantly driven by external or systemic factors in the international trading system
and the EU’s commercial response to these, rather than a policy shift driven by pre-
dominantly internal factors. This description is followed by a summary of the various
motivations behind EU policy. The paper then discusses the content of the EU ‘model’
for PTAs. The term model needs to be used with some caution as the EU approach to
PTAs has been fairly f‌lexible and the content varies depending on the EU interests and
those of its negotiating partner in any specif‌ic negotiation.
I The Evolution of EU PTA Policy
A The Predominantly Political Motivation Shaping the Selection of EU
Trade Partners Up to the Mid-1990s
The EU (and before it the European Community) has been active in negotiating
preferential trade agreements (PTAs) and is itself the most advanced model of
regional integration. Until the middle of the 2000s, however, the selection of PTA
partners was to a very large extent shaped by political or broadly def‌ined security
motivations. The preferences for the African, Caribbean and Pacif‌ic (ACP) states
adopted in Yaoundé, Lomé and then Cotonou addressed the trade relations with the
former colonies of EU Member States. Initially, the aim was to ensure access for the
former French, Belgian and then British colonies to the European market in order to
retain economic and political links with the countries concerned. If commercial (trade
and investment) interests had been important when these preferences were agreed,
they subsequently declined. By 2000, ACP markets accounted for little more than 4%
of EU exports, down from 8% when the Lomé Agreement was signed, although some
ACP states remained important sources of raw materials. The Lomé Agreements that
included both preferential market access to the EU and development funding there-
fore assumed more and more the character of a development-motivated agreement.
* Lecturer at the London School of Economics (LSE) and Associate Research Fellow at UNU-CRIS.
European Law Journal, Vol. 20, No. 6, November 2014, pp. 718–732.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

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