Article 9 - EU FTAs and divided sovereignty: Transformative shifts in trade authority
Keywords:Creeping competence, divided sovereignty, EU trade policy, subnational engagement, failing forward
EU trade policy has evolved on the scope of its remit through what can be framed as “creeping competence” (Pollack 1994, 2000). Since the Treaty of Rome to the Lisbon Treaty the EU has consolidated its sovereignty over trade by broadening its competences. However, the enlarged scope of EU FTAs has pushed subnational units to demand shared sovereignty over trade issues to protect the status quo on their regulatory competences. In turn, the 2017 Court of Justice ruling that the EU-Singapore Agreement could only be concluded with the consent of the EU and its Member States has led the Commission to propose the splitting of trade deals into EU-only and “mixed” agreements. While the EU holds to its exclusive competences in the former, mixed agreements require divided sovereignty with the member states. Both the engagement of subnational entities in trade policy and the impact of the Court decision represent transformative shifts in the locus of trade policymaking from centralized competences to divided sovereignty with national and subnational entities. The ensuing difficulties in ratifying EU trade agreements have prompted stop-gap solutions that raise questions as to where the pattern of “creeping competence” is applicable. These political and legal challenges highlight that “creeping competence” may have unintended consequences unleashed by the dynamics of the policy itself. In trade policy the notion of “creeping competence” has to capture the legal challenges, the efforts to claw back centralization, as well as the pushback by subnational entities to protect their regulatory sovereignty.
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