The EU’s common commercial or trade policy is one of the linchpins of its relations with the rest of the world (Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU), as well as an exclusive EU competence (Article 3 of the TFEU). The Lisbon Treaty extended this competence to cover foreign direct investment, as well as making the European Parliament a co-legislator alongside the Council on trade matters.
On behalf of all EU countries, the European Commission handles trade issues, such as negotiating trade agreements with non-EU countries. These are concluded by qualified majority except in the case of agreements on trade in services, intellectual property, direct foreign investments, audiovisual and cultural services, and social, educational and health services, when Council adoption must be unanimous.
The EU is active in the World Trade Organisation. It supports the abolition of trade and customs barriers. To defend its market, it has a battery of tools such as anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures, the Trade Barriers Regulation and safeguard measures.
Source: EUR Lex Glossary