Interactive Levels of Policy-Making in the European Union's Common Commercial Policy

This paper accounts for the dynamics of the EU's Common Commercial Policy (CCP). With the Commission acting as agent in international trading regimes, it is clear that intergovernmentalism does not fully capture its role. In this paper we are presented with a refined version of Putnam's two level bargaining to better conceive of CCP processes.

ARENA Working Paper 13/1997 (html)

Finn Ola Jølstad

The European Union has become one of the three most important players on the world economic scene alongside the USA and Japan. As the world's largest trading block, the EU is today accounting for around one fifth of world trade. A common trade policy is necessary for the EU because in its absence internal trade will be impeded and the purpose of a common market frustrated. Moreover, it is desirable insofar as it strengthens the bargaining power of the EU. This is the rationale for the exclusive authority of the EU to enter into international trade agreements on behalf of its member states in areas where common (internal) EU rules exist. In procedural terms, the Council acts on the basis of qualified majority and mandates the Commission to negotiate on its behalf with third countries or in international organisations. The question is not whether the EU has a foreign economic policy, but rather how and when it can translate its economic potential into economic and political effects. One parsimonious explanation of EU policy-making is provided by the intergovernmentalists who claim that EU politics «is the continuation of domestic politics by other means» (Moravcsik, 1991:25). In this article it will be argued that the intergovernmentalist theory is incapable of providing an overall explanation of EU policy-making in the CCP. Wheras the intergovernmentalist theory simply add international instutional structures to the domestic policy-making, there is a need for a more integrated analysis of how these systems of governance relate to each other. This study recognise the face value of the EU's economic strength, but will also provide alternative explanations of how the EU is capable to act as an active and deliberate actor towards other actors in the international system. It especially points to the role of the Commission as the EU's chief negotiator. Instead of a pure intergovernmentalist model we therefore have to modify the two-level bargaining model (Putnam, 1988) to take into account the unique institutional structure of the EU.

Tags: common commercial policy, European Commission, WTO
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM