European Law Monitor

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The EU Common Commercial Policy

If you are an exporter or importer you are likely to be affected by the common commercial policy.

The aim of the common commercial policy is to contribute, in the common interest to

  • development of world trade
  • the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade
  • the lowering of customs barriers.

The common commercial policy aims to apply uniform principles, particularly with regard to:

  • changes in tariff rates   
  • the conclusion of tariff and trade agreements with countries outside the EU
  • import policy
  • export policy
  • measures to protect trade such as those to be taken in the event of dumping or subsidies.

One way in which the Commission is entitled to pursue this aim is by the abolition of customs duties between Member States, on the grounds that this will increase the competitive strength of businesses in those States.

Under the terms of the common commercial policy, Member States will progressively harmonise their systems for granting aid for exports to countries outside the EU, to the extent necessary to ensure that competition between EU businesses is not distorted.

The principles behind the common commercial policy will also apply to the negotiation and conclusion of agreements in the fields of trade in services and the commercial aspects of intellectual property, within certain limits defined by the Treaty.

Agreements relating to:

  • trade in cultural and audiovisual services
  • educational services
  • social and human health services

are matters of shared competence, not exclusive competence. Any agreements in relation to these areas will require the common consent of all the Member States, and if agreements are made they need to be signed jointly by both the EU and all the Member States.