As well as attempting to create a single EU economy through the single market and EMU, the EU acts as a single body in international trade matters, in order to maximise its negotiating power (the EU represents more than 25 per cent of world GDP) and to underpin the unification of the internal market.
The CET provisions of the single market oblige member states to act in common in setting external tariffs. The commission is also empowered to negotiate trade agreements on behalf of the EU.
This process begins with the commission making a recommendation to the general affairs council (GAC) that the EU should seek an agreement with a country or trading bloc, which decides whether negotiations should be entered into.
The commission then negotiates an agreement on the basis of the mandate given to it by the GAC, which has the final right of approval of the agreements reached. The EP has no automatic right to be consulted.