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The Commissioner for Trade is the member of the European Commission responsible for the European Union's common commercial (external trade) policy. The portfolio is currently held by Karel De Gucht (Belgium - VDL / ALDE)

Contents

Responsibilities

Due to the size of the European economy, being the world's largest market and having a huge slice of world trade, this position can be very important in dealing with other world economic powers such as China or the United States. Former Commissioner Leon Brittan commented that “Frankly, it is more important than most [national] cabinet jobs”.[1] The Commissioner leads Europe in organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The European Union (although, due to the legal structure of the EU, it was known as the European Communities at the WTO until 1 December 2009) is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in its own right since the WTO was founded on 1 January 1995, along side its member states. The EU forms its own customs union with a common external tariff and commercial (external trade) policy: this means that at the WTO the EU operates as a single actor with the European Commission representing the EU.[2]

EU trade policy is decided by the Article 133 committee (EU trade policy is based on Article 133 of the EU treaties) which brings together the Commission and member states to decide policy. Actual negotiations are carried out by the Commission's Directorate-General for Trade under the authority of the Trade Commissioner.[3] However, current plans for the European External Action Service (EEAS) may see trade and WTO relations being transferred from the Commission over the EEAS and the High Representative.

De Gucht (2010-)

Karel De Gucht was appointed as the new Commissioner in 2010. De Gucht's statements to the European Parliament ahead of becoming Trade Commissioner were met with dismay by Trade Justice campaigners who claimed 'responses at his three hour hearing revealed his corporate sympathies and gave little indication that the change of personnel at the European Trade Commission will lead to any change in the direction of European trade policy.'[4]

Ashton (2008-2009)

Catherine Ashton was nominated by Gordon Brown as the UK's EU Commissioner on 3 October to replace Peter Mandelson[5] and appointed on 6 October as the new Trade Commissioner.[6] Although a life peer, she does not use her title Baroness Ashton of Upholland as an EU Commissioner.[7] On 1 December 2009 Ashton became the new High Representative and Benita Ferrero-Waldner took over Trade until the second Barroso Commission was in place.

Mandelson (2004-2008)

At his hearing at the European Parliament in 2004, Peter Mandelson expressed a desire to develop multi-lateral rule-based trade, benefiting the poor as well as helping general economic development. He has been noted for being a pro-European and an Atlantacist. [8]

Concluding WTO talks after the collapse of the Doha Development Round has been a contentious point, with the EU not willing to cut agricultural subsidies without similar action by the United States.

In July 2007, he proposed the creation of European golden shares to protect certain European companies, such as EADS from foreign takeovers. The Commission has generally been against golden shares as they distort the Union's internal market, the idea is that EU golden shares would protect companies from outside influence but not other European companies.[9]

Mandelson stated that he did not intend to seek another term in the Commission after 2009[10] and in 2008 he stood down in order to join the British cabinet as Business secretary. Although his tenure was supported by business representatives in Brussels in light of his advocacy of free trade, his departure was generally welcomed by development NGOs and fair trade campaigners who viewed his attitude towards developing countries as aggressive, supporting European big business over development goals.[11]

List of commissioners

Name Country Period Commission
1 Jean Rey  France 1957-1962
1962-1967
Hallstein Commission I
Hallstein Commission II
2 Jean-François Deniau  France 1958-1970 Rey Commission
3 Ralf Dahrendorf  West Germany 1970-1972
1972-1973
Malfatti Commission
Mansholt Commission
4 Christopher Soames  West Germany 1973-1977 Ortoli Commission
5 Wilhelm Haferkamp  West Germany 1977-1981
1981-1985
Jenkins Commission
Thorn Commission
6 Willy De Clercq  Belgium 1985–1988 Delors Commission I
7 Frans Andriessen  Netherlands 1989–1992 Delors Commission II
8 Leon Brittan  United Kingdom 1993–1995
1995–1999
Delors Commission III
Santer Commission
9 Pascal Lamy  France 1999–2004 Prodi Commission
10 Danuta Hübner  Poland 2004 Prodi Commission
11 Peter Mandelson  United Kingdom 2004–2008 Barroso Commission I
12 Catherine Ashton  United Kingdom 2008–2009 Barroso Commission I
13 Benita Ferrero-Waldner  Austria 2009-2010 Barroso Commission I
14 Karel De Gucht  Belgium 2010 onwards Barroso Commission II

See also

External links

References

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