Efficient bilateralism? The TTIP from an EU Trade Policy perspective 1
European Union Studies Association
The EU bilateral trade strategy since 2006, including the TTIP, has been justified by the European Commission on the bases that deep and comprehensive trade agreements are compatible with efficient multilateralism. The Commission argument is the following: in a context marked by international supply-chains, preferential agreements that allow for progress on what has been achieved at the multilateral level (topics WTO +) and in areas not already covered by the WTO (items WTO-X) may be considered
... as a stepping stone, not a stumbling block for multilateral liberalization. In other words, EU recent bilateral negotiations and agreements should be seen at worst as complementary to multilateral negotiations and at best as promoters. This paper challenges this argument by pointing out that there has been a change in EU actions in the Doha Round since 2009 that may signal a change in the nature of its bilateral strategy. Content analysis of a primary source of information-the Bridges Weekly reports-shows that though the EU did not preclude the inclusion of new actors in the high table of negotiations at any time and was in favour of the Bali agreement of 2013, its willingness to make concessions reached a plateau in 2008. As complementarity between bilateralism and multilateralism may be influenced by the degree of progress at multilateral level negotiations, this shift from concessions to a stagnant position in the Doha Round may be indicative of a change in the nature of EU bilateral strategy. Indeed, from 2006 until 2009 the EU sought bilateral partners among new important trade players (India, ASEAN and South Korea). Since then, the EU has focused on reaching agreements with the old Quad members (Canada, Japan and the USA). Assuming that the EU is not playing a double game and therefore there is a consistency between its actions at the multilateral and bilateral levels, its bilateral agreements may have gone from being a complement to being a replacement of multilateralism. We conclude that the TTIP may be read, at least in the short time, as an example of efficient bilateralism.