LAWSG166 EU Trade and External Relations Law

Credit value: 30 credits (15 ECTS, 300 learning hours)
Convenor: Gracia Marín Durán
Other Teachers: None
Teaching Delivery: 20 x 2-hour weekly seminars, 10 seminars per term, Term One and Two
Who may enrol: LLM students only
Prerequisites: None. However, students who have never studied EU law are strongly recommended to do one of the preliminary readings listed below.
Must not be taken with: None
Qualifying module for: LLM in European Union Law;
LLM in International Law
Introductory video Currently there is no introductory video for this module
Practice Assessment: Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay
Final Assessment: One 4,500-word essay (70%) and one in-class oral presentation (30%)
Module Overview
Module summary:

Particularly since the Treaty of Maastricht entered into force, the European Union (EU) has increasingly sought to develop its international identity and established itself as an ever more significant actor on the global stage. Most notably, the EU stands out as the largest integrated trading bloc in the world, the leading donor of development and humanitarian assistance, and an influential player in global environmental law/policy-making among other fields of international relations. And yet, the EU is not only an important international actor in economic and political terms, but also a sui generis entity from a legal and institutional perspective. This renders the study of EU trade and external relations at once a complex and fascinating subject, warranting a specialised full-year course.

The course is broadly divided into three parts. The first group of seminars will deal with the constitutional foundations of the EU as an actor in international relations which, as we will see, are quite intricate partly due to the fragmented Treaty structure (the Treaty on the European Union TEU; and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, TFEU) and the very detailed provisions contained therein, and also because of the existence of an abundant and complicated body of case law in this field of EU activity. In particular, we will consider the following topics: the EU as an international actor with attributed competences; the legal principles and tools governing the joint action of the EU and its Member States on the international scene; and the inter-relationship between EU law and international law. Indeed, the latter will be a cross-cutting issue throughout the course, with international law providing the normative framework against which we will assess the legality and legitimacy of the Union’s external action.

The second group of seminars will focus on the constitutional framework and specific instruments of the Common Commercial Policy (CCP), which is the oldest and most developed EU external policy now covering not only trade and trade-related matters but also foreign direct investment (FDI). We will examine the evolution of the Treaty provisions on the CCP from Rome to Lisbon, the landmark judgements of the Court of Justice in this policy area, the EU’s role in the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as its growing network of bilateral/inter-regional free trade agreements, its main autonomous trade instruments, and finally its fledging policy on FDI and the key legal/institutional challenges involved.

The third group of seminars will turn to explore other areas of EU’s external relations, while paying particular attention to how the CCP has interacted with, and been used to promote the objectives of, other EU policies, whether these are purely external in nature (such as Development Cooperation and the Common Foreign and Security Policy) or embody an important external dimension (such as the Common Fisheries Policy, Environmental/Energy Policies and Human Rights Policy). We will look at the Treaty-based linkages between the CCP and these other EU policies and appraise their interaction in practice through the lens of selected ‘case-studies’. Subsequently, we will reflect on the EU’s role in global monetary governance, and in particular on the controversial question of the external representation of the Eurozone at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As could be expected, the last seminar in the course will be dedicated to the contemporary issue of Brexit and its specific implications for EU trade and external relations.


Upon completion of this course, students should have acquired:

  1. An in-depth knowledge and understanding of the constitutional framework governing the EU’s external relations and of EU practice in this arena, with a particular focus on trade policy and how it interacts with other EU polices;
  2. A critical awareness of the international legal framework within which such EU external action takes place and of how it relates and affects EU external policies;
  3. An ability to critically assess the role of the EU as an international actor, to engage with contemporary debates on related globalisation issues, and to think constructively about possible avenues for legal/policy development;
  4. An ability to conduct independent research, to synthesise and analyse material from a variety of relevant primary and secondary sources, and to articulate, sustain and defend a line of argument.
Module syllabus:

This module will be structured as follows:

  1. Introduction to the Course
  2. The EU as an International Actor with Attributed Competences – Express/Implied and Exclusive/Shared
  3. Managing EU/MS Shared External Competences (1) – Duties of Cooperation and Compliance
  4. Managing EU/MS Shared External Competences (2) – Mixed Agreements and International Responsibility
  5. EU and International Law (1) – Status in EU Legal Order
  6. EU and International Law (2) – Legal Effect in EU Legal Order
  7. Common Commercial Policy (1) – Constitutional Evolution from Rome to Lisbon
  8. Common Commercial Policy (2) – EU & World Trade Organisation/Free Trade Agreements
  9. Common Commercial Policy (3) – New EU Competence for Foreign Direct Investment
  10. Common Commercial Policy (4) – Raw Materials Initiative
  11. Common Commercial Policy (5) – Trade Defence Instruments
  12. CCP and EU Development Policy – Trade & Sustainable Development Clauses in Bilateral/Unilateral Instruments
  13. CCP and Common Foreign and Security Policy – Politically-Motivated Sanctions
  14. CCP and Common Fisheries Policy – IUU Fishing Regulation
  15. CCP and EU Environmental Policy – FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements
  16. CCP and EU Climate Change Policy – Emissions Trading Scheme
  17. CCP and EU Energy Policy – Energy Community Treaty and Bilateral Agreements
  18. CCP and EU Human Rights Policy – Conditionality in Regional/Bilateral Agreements
  19. The EU/Eurozone and Global Monetary Governance
  20. Challenges Ahead – Brexit & EU Trade and External Relations
Recommended materials:

There is no single prescribed textbook for this course, as reading lists will be drawn from a variety of primary materials, books and journal articles. Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment.

Recommended textbooks, specifically dealing with the area of EU external relations law, are:

  • Eeckhout, EU External Relations Law (Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 2011)
  • van Vooren and R. A. Wessel, EU External Relations Law – Text, Cases and Materials (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
  • J. Kuijper, J. Wouters, F. Hoffmeister, G. De Baere and T. Ramopoulos, The Law of EU External Relations – Cases, Materials and Commentary on the EU as an International Legal Actor (Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 2015)

A fundamental resource for the course are the primary materials of the EU (treaties, international agreements, legislative acts and case-law), which can be freely downloaded from the following websites:

Preliminary reading:

Students who have never studied EU law are strongly recommended to do one of the following preliminary readings before the start of the course:

  • Craig & G. de Búrca, EU Law: Text, Cases and Materials (Oxford University Press, 6th edition, 2015), particularly chapters 1-5; OR
  • Dashwood & D. Wyatt, European Union Law (Hart, 6th edition, 2011), chapters 1-5; OR
  • D. Chalmers & G. Davies, European Union Law: Text and Materials (Cambridge University Press, 3rd edition, 2014), particularly chapters 1-3 and 5