chapter  5
21 Pages

The World Trade Organization and the European Union


What the European Union1 does in the World Trade Organization2 (WTO) is a matter for not only the Europeans but also the rest of the world. The relationship is arguably one of the cornerstones in contemporary global governance. Europe is an undisputed giant in the global economy. It is the biggest trader in the world, responsible for roughly a fifth of global trade in goods and services. The stakes are high for the European Union in global trade but outsiders have little confidence in what the European Union does in the WTO, whereas the European Union sees itself as its most loyal supporter. The European Commission speaks for ‘Europe’ in the WTO. This institutional set-up is unique. The European Union is one of the original WTO members in its own right. For all purposes, the Commission acts like all other foreign policy actors in the WTO. Yet, domestic and transnational politics pull the Commission in different directions. The Commission itself is often fragmented. This duality is often framed as a multilevel game (Putnam 1988; see also Conybeare 1992; Paarlberg 1997; Meunier and Nicolaïdes 2005). The two-level game model continues to produce insightful analyses of EU behaviour in WTO negotiations but is of little use when it comes to EU behaviour in the dispute settlement system, the raison d’être of the WTO institution.