Following a public consultation and impact assessment, the European Commission starts talks with the other side on the prospects of a deal and which topics to cover. Fully-fledged trade agreements focus on opening up to each other’s markets, while other partnerships, such as with African and Caribbean nations, focus mainly on supporting sustainable development.
The Commission leads the talks and updates EU member countries and the European Parliament regularly throughout the negotiations. Businesses of all sizes, unions, and consumer and environmental organisations provide regular input, and the Commission publishes all relevant documents online.
Talks may last several years. Once an agreement is reached, member states in the European Council and the European Parliament must give their approval. Certain agreements, such as the recent deal with Canada, also require ratification through the EU’s national and regional parliaments.