Common Commercial Policy of the EU
Trade policy is one of the areas where the cooperation between EU Member States is the most advanced. Finland’s trade policy interests are promoted within the Common Commercial Policy (CCP). In practical terms, the CCP means that the EU forms a customs union with uniform import duties.
Finland guards its interest in the EU
As an EU Member State, Finland represents its trade policy interests within the CCP. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is responsible for preparing and coordinating CCP matters in Finland.
Trade policy differs critically from e.g. the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy because the EU has nearly exclusive competence for trade policy issues. As a result, all CCP initiatives and proposals are made by the European Commission, who also negotiates trade agreements with third countries.
The Commission plays a visible role also in that it speaks on behalf of the EU within the World Trade Organization (WTO).
While the Commission enjoys a strong and visible role in trade policy, decisions are ultimately made in the European Council. The Council of the European Union, where national government ministers meet, decides on negotiating mandates, international agreements and various trade policy measures.
The European Commission is under an obligation to consult the Member States regularly. Thus Finland – like the other Member States – can have an active say in trade policy issues in the preparatory phases of policy-making.
The Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force in December 2009, provides for a closer involvement of the European Parliament (EP) in the conduct of trade policy. Among other things, the EP’s consent is required for the ratification of free trade agreements and for CCP-related legislative measures.
EU decision-making in trade policy
CCP issues are centrally prepared in the Trade Policy Committee (TPC), a preparatory body of the Council of the European Union. All the Member States are represented in the TPC, which convenes in Brussels every week.
Despite its advisory role, the TPC plays a central role in EU decision-making in CCP, discussing all trade policy issues of key importance. Even though decisions can be made by qualified majority vote, a consensus is usually sought in trade policy matters.
In parallel with its full configuration, the TPC regularly convenes in various expert groups (e.g. “Services and investment”).
Legislative proposals that concern, for example, trade defence measures, are processed in the Council’s working group on trade questions. The application of trade defence instruments is moreover discussed in the Commission-led Anti-Dumping Committee.
The EU has a very extensive trade policy agenda in terms of substance and geographical coverage. The TPC’s agenda regularly includes negotiations carried out within the World Trade Organization (WTO). In parallel with multilateral negotiations, the EU maintains and develops a wide network of regional and bilateral trade arrangements.
Bilateral relations with important trading partners, such as the USA, Russia, China, India, Brazil and Japan, play a key role in the Common Commercial Policy of the EU.
Formulating Finnish positions
Finland’s national positions to be presented in the TPC are prepared in the “EU2 sub-committee” of the Committee for EU Affairs, which is composed of representatives from the different ministries. This sub-committee meets in the restricted format more frequently than in the extended composition. In addition to central government, various interest groups are also represented in the extended composition.
Finnish positions may also be discussed in the Committee for EU Affairs, composed of the permanent secretaries of all ministries or their deputies, and ultimately in the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs.