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Development and policy (in the multilateral context only)

80 - European Policy in the World Trade Organization

Grade: A-
Unity 5/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 8/10
Total 17/20
Scorecard 2012: A+ (13/20)

Europe scored successes on bilateral free-trade agreements and made a big push for regulatory convergence, but couldn’t resuscitate the Doha round.

At the World Trade Organization (WTO), EU member states speak with just one voice – that of EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. The EU has three main objectives: restarting multilateral freetrade negotiations within the Doha framework, pursuing the completion of bilateral free-trade agreements with various trading partners, and pushing for regulatory convergence with the EU’s major partners, including the US and, most notably, China.
Although the Doha round is on hold, there were signs of a possible restart, largely initiated by European officials within WTO working groups. Meanwhile, the EU concluded – swiftly by usual standards – a major bilateral trade agreement with South Korea, as well as other bilateral agreements with a group of Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama), and with Peru and Colombia. The EU has also made progress in defending its agricultural interests in bilateral negotiations with the South American trade bloc MERCOSUR. In December, the EU also formally backed Russia’s bid to join the WTO, which is set to take place in 2011. This development highlights the EU’s commitment to enhancing the universality and centrality of the WTO as the forum for commercial negotiations.
Europeans are formally united behind their newest objective of regulatory convergence, and although a few member states have some qualms about this approach, they did 
not undermine European coherence. The EU was also proactive in probing China’s practices during the review of its trade policy, which was based on the principle that emerging economies such as India (with which bilateral trade negotiations began in 2010) should not benefit from special treatment. Europeans used their political weight to push for a convergence in regulatory approaches in order to ensure fair-trading practices – an objective shared by Americans but on which the EU is the leading power.