Can EU trade deals be changed?

Can EU trade deals be changed?

EU trade deals may be renegotiated at any time provided both sides agree.

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The EU and Mexico are updating their 2001 agreement, for instance, to reflect the fact that the EU has 13 new members and Mexico’s economy has changed a lot in the past 20 years. Ecuador only joined the EU’s trade agreement with Columbia and Peru in 2017, four years after the founding members.

But countries are often reluctant to reopen negotiations, as this may upset the delicate trade-offs established over years of talks. Trade deals aim to provide a stable environment for businesses to invest, so renegotiations are not entered into lightly.

In late 2016, the Belgian region of Wallonia at first blocked the national government from signing the EU-Canada trade deal, citing concerns over investors’ rights and agricultural imports. As a result, the parties added clauses confirming that:

  • the European Court of Justice would rule on the legality of measures to protect investors and
  • Belgium could introduce measures to protect farmers in times of “market turbulence.”

EU member states issued similar clarifications when in 2016 the Netherlands voted in a non-binding referendum to reject a trade and integration agreement with Ukraine. These did not change the text of the agreement, but they did confirm that the agreement did not:

  • make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership
  • allow its citizens to live or work in the bloc
  • entitle it to financial aid or military assistance.