Making it cheaper to send goods and services across borders helps EU companies to source materials, meaning they can supply their final products and services for less and compete more effectively.
It also means consumers pay less and enjoy more choice. A 1% rise in imports in the manufacturing sector leads to a 3.6% drop in average prices.
Trade also gives trading partners an incentive to lift their standards. Armenia, Bolivia and Mongolia are among the countries that enjoy easier access to the EU market in return for reducing hazardous waste, improving labour standards and protecting biodiversity.
Trade deals may be bilateral (between two parties, such as the EU and a third country) or multilateral (between many parties). European negotiators have pushed for talks at the World Trade Organization involving as many countries as possible. However, securing agreement takes time, so in the meantime bilateral agreements remain an EU priority.