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Finland’s trade policy in the European Union

The EU follows a common trade policy in relation to non-EU states. Photo: EU CommissionThe EU follows a common trade policy in relation to non-EU states. Photo: EU Commission

Trade policy is one of the areas where the cooperation between the Member States of the EU is the most advanced. The EU’s Common Commercial Policy (CCP) means that the EU forms a Customs Union with uniform import duties.


Representing of Finland’s interests in the European Union

Finland’s trade policy interests are taken care of as part of the CCP, which applies to all Member States. Trade policy is, thus,  critically different from, for example, the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy because the EU has nearly exclusive competence for trade policy issues. Exclusive competence in trade policy means that the Commission makes all initiatives and proposals concerning the CCP and negotiates trade agreements with third countries. The Commission plays a visible role also in that it speaks on behalf of the EU in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Even though the Commission’s trade policy role is strong and visible, final decisions are made by the Council. It meets at the ministerial level every month  and decides on negotiating mandates, international agreements and different trade policy measures.

The Commission is under an obligation to consult the Member States regularly, and so Finland like the other Member States can actively exercise influence on the content of trade policy in the various phases of discussion.

Impact of the Treaty of Lisbon on the EU’s CCP

The Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force in December 2009, expanded the Union’s competence to cover also foreign direct investment (FDI) and trade in services. From then on, the EU has had nearly exclusive competence over trade policy matters.

The most conspicuous change is closer involvement of the European Parliament (EP) in the conduct of trade policy. This means, among other things, that the EP’s consent is required for the ratification of f  trade agreements and legislation concerning the CCP.

Decision-making procedure on trade policy matters

Questions related to the CCP are centrally prepared in the Trade Policy Committee (TPC; formerly Committee 133). All Member States are represented in the TPC and it convenes in Brussels every week.

Despite its advisory role, the TPC plays a central role in the EU’s CCP. All trade policy issues of key importance are discussed in the TPC. Even though decisions can be made by qualified majority vote, a consensus is usually sought in trade policy matters.

The TPC convenes both in its full configuration and in various expert groups (such as services and investment). Legislative proposals, concerning, for example, trade defence measures, are handled in the Council’s working group on trade questions. The Commission-led Anti-Dumping Committee deals with the application of trade defence instruments.

The EU’s trade policy agenda is very extensive in terms of its substance and geographical coverage. The TPC’s agenda includes regular negotiations with the World Trade Organization (WTO). In addition to multilateral negotiations, the EU maintains and develops a wide network of regional and bilateral trade arrangements. The EU’s bilateral relations with important trading partners, such as the USA, Russia, China, India, Brazil and Japan, play a key role in the EU’s CCP.

Finland’s trade policy interests are represented as part of the EU’s common trade policy. Photo: EU CommissionFinland’s trade policy interests are represented as part of the EU’s common trade policy. Photo: EU Commission

Preparation of Finland’s opinions

Finland’s national positions for the TPC are prepared in the sub-committee of the Committee for EU Affairs, which is composed of representatives from different ministries.

The sub-committee meets almost every week in the restricted format and less frequently in an extended composition . In the extended composition not only the central government but also various interest groups are represented. If necessary, matters can also be prepared 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.

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