Under the multilateral trade system, the European Union trades with many countries around the world. Most of the European Union’s multilateral trade agreements are coordinated through the World Trade Organization (WTO). This means that the EU must abide by the system of trading rules agreed by all WTO members. The WTO is a multilateral trade organization based on the membership of several different governments and political entities, such as the EU, the largest political entity within the WTO. Decisions are based on a consensus among the participating members.

At most WTO meetings, the European Commission represents the EU. A special committee consults the European Commission, so that it can it can negotiate trade agreements on behalf of the member states. All of the Commission’s work takes into consideration the wider aspects of the European Community policies.

For more on the EU and the WTO, click HERE.

For more information on the EU’s bilateral trade with Canada, click HERE.

Most of the European Union’s trade is done internally – among the different member states. The difference between internal trade and external trade is that with internal trade, the EU’s member states are trading across essentially invisible borders. With the establishment of a single European market, the EU member states enjoy tariff-free trade with each other. They also comply with rules and standards set by the EU for the EU. The combination of internal trade and external trade makes the EU a prosperous regional group. The specific aspects of internal trade in the EU will be discussed in more detail in the Economics section of this website.


Is it possible to be in the WTO and be fair to all states in the organization, while having special preferential agreements with certain states within the organization?

Click on the image to download the booklet, Making Globalization Work for Everyone: the European Union and World Trade. (European Commission)

Return to Topic 2 – Activity 4: The EU and Trade