Trade agreement

Source: Europa Nu.

A trade agreement is a legally binding agreement between the EU and third countries. It is one of three special types of international agreements. The objective of these agreements is to foster and facilitate trade relations between the EU and a country.


Trade agreements in detail

Area of application

Member states are party to each trade agreement the European Union enters into with third countries. Member states are thus obligated to adhere to the provisions of a partnership and cooperation agreement.

Trade agreements may concern the following areas:

  • establish or change tariff rates
  • harmonisation of measures of liberalisation
  • trade policies
  • protective measures (anti-dumping mostly)
  • (export)subsidies
  • quota for import and export

In the case of other trade-related matters the EU has the right to negotiate and enter into trade agreements, but the European Commission has to be granted permission by the member states prior to starting negotiations.

Adopting partnership and cooperation agreements

The EU has a special agreement procedure i with which to adopt partnership and cooperation agreements.

The EU has exclusive competence when it comes to negotiating and entering into trade agreements. That is why the member states are closely involved when negotiating trade agreements, more so than in the case of other international agreements.


Legal framework

Trade agreements are based on the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TfEU).

  • exclusive competence EC: first part TEU title I art. 3
  • instrument: part five TfEU title II art. 207


Further information