Trade agreements are flexible instruments and their content reflects relations
with and priorities of the EU and its different partners. Basically, EU trade policy
distinguishes between three types of accords , i.e.
Partnership and Cooperation Agreements – which leave customs as they
are and provide a general framework for bilateral and economic relations,
for example with African and Caribbean partner countries.
Customs Unions – which eliminate duties with the respective trading
partner and establish a joint tariff for foreign imports, for example with San
Marino and Andorra or the Customs Union with Turkey (for trade in
Association Agreements, Stabilisation Agreements and (Deep and
Comprehensive) Free Trade Agreements and Economic Partnerships –
which remove or reduce customs tariffs in bilateral trade, for example with
South Korea (FTA), Canada (deep and comprehensive FTA) or Serbia
and Albania (both with Stabilisation and Association Agreements).
Trade agreements are about more than reducing barriers to trade. They are a
policy instrument to strengthen bilateral ties between partners and can also be
used to promote certain principles or values (e.g. Environmental protection or
animal health). FTAs are typically based on the idea of reciprocal liberalisation.
However, Economic Partnership Agreements do not necessarily require
(immediate) reciprocal market opening from partners, reflecting their history as
an attempt to promote economic development through trade. Some trade
accords are part of broader political agreements, e.g. Association agreements.
The EU’s trade agreements are quite heterogeneous, reflecting characteristics
of trading partners’ economies, bilateral trade ties as well as their dates of
negotiation and conclusion. Notably some of the older agreements are currently