European Commissioner for Trade

European Commissioner for Trade
European Commissioner
for Trade
Karel De Gucht

since 9 February 2010
Appointer Jose Manuel Barroso[1]
Term length Five years
Inaugural holder Jean Rey
Formation 1958
Salary €19,909.89 per month[2][3]
Website European Commission

The European Commissioner for Trade (sometimes referred to as the EU Trade Commissioner) is the member of the European Commission responsible for the European Union's (EU) common commercial policy (governing international trade). The portfolio has been held by Karel De Gucht (BelgiumVLD / ALDE) since February 2010.



The Commissioner heads up the Directorate-General for Trade in defining the commercial policy of the EU, which has been exclusively under the EU's mandate since the EEC's Rome Treaty in 1957. Due to the size of the European economy, being the world's largest market and having a huge slice of world trade, this position can be very important in dealing with other world economic powers such as China or the United States. Former Commissioner Leon Brittan commented that “Frankly, it is more important than most [national] cabinet jobs”.[4]

The Commissioner defines the trade interests of the EU and negotiates bilateral, regional or multilateral agreements with third countries. He monitors the implementation of such agreements and deals with any unfair practices, devises and monitors internal and external policies concerning international trade, ensures consistency in EU external policies and provides up-to-date public and industrial economic information.[5]


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The European Union (although, due to the legal structure of the EU, it was known as the European Communities at the WTO until 1 December 2009) is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in its own right since the WTO was founded on 1 January 1995, along side its member states. The EU forms its own customs union with a common external tariff and commercial (external trade) policy: this means that at the WTO the EU operates as a single actor with the European Commission representing the EU.[6]

EU trade policy is decided by the Article 133 committee (EU trade policy is based on Article 133 of the EU treaties) which brings together the Commission and member states to decide policy. Actual negotiations are carried out by the Commission's Directorate-General for Trade under the authority of the Trade Commissioner.[7] However, current plans for the European External Action Service (EEAS) may see trade and WTO relations being transferred from the Commission over the EEAS and the High Representative.

At the WTO, the EU has been in a large number of trade disputes with other members, notably the US (see European Union – United States relations). The EU has brought 81 cases to the WTO, had 67 brought against it and been a third party in a further 88 (as of March 2010).[6]


De Gucht (incumbent)

Karel De Gucht was appointed as the new Commissioner in 2010. De Gucht's statements to the European Parliament ahead of becoming Trade Commissioner were met with dismay by Trade Justice campaigners who claimed 'responses at his three hour hearing revealed his corporate sympathies and gave little indication that the change of personnel at the European Trade Commission will lead to any change in the direction of European trade policy.'[8]

De Gucht has criticised China for undervaluing the Renminbi and the US for protectionism and incoherence over the Doha round.[9] This further comes after EADS pulled out of a US defence contract bid, that is had previously won before it was reopened, claiming the tender process was biased against them.[10][11]

Ashton (2008–2009)

Catherine Ashton was nominated by Gordon Brown as the UK's EU Commissioner on 3 October to replace Peter Mandelson[12] and appointed on 6 October as the new Trade Commissioner.[13] Although a life peer, she does not use her title Baroness Ashton of Upholland as an EU Commissioner.[14] On 1 December 2009 Ashton became the new High Representative and Benita Ferrero-Waldner took over Trade until the second Barroso Commission was in place.

Mandelson (2004–2008)

At his hearing at the European Parliament in 2004, Peter Mandelson expressed a desire to develop multi-lateral rule-based trade, benefiting the poor as well as helping general economic development. He has been noted for being a pro-European and an Atlantacist.[15]

Concluding WTO talks after the collapse of the Doha Development Round has been a contentious point, with the EU not willing to cut agricultural subsidies without similar action by the United States.

In July 2007, he proposed the creation of European golden shares to protect certain European companies, such as EADS from foreign takeovers. The Commission has generally been against golden shares as they distort the Union's internal market, the idea is that EU golden shares would protect companies from outside influence but not other European companies.[16]

Mandelson stated that he did not intend to seek another term in the Commission after 2009[17] and in 2008 he stood down in order to join the British cabinet as Business secretary. Although his tenure was supported by business representatives in Brussels in light of his advocacy of free trade, his departure was generally welcomed by development NGOs and fair trade campaigners who viewed his attitude towards developing countries as aggressive, supporting European big business over development goals.[18]


Name Country Period Commission
1 Jean Rey  Belgium 1957–1962
Hallstein Commission I
Hallstein Commission II
2 Jean-François Deniau  France 1958–1970 Rey Commission
3 Ralf Dahrendorf  West Germany 1970–1972
Malfatti Commission
Mansholt Commission
4 Christopher Soames  United Kingdom 1973–1977 Ortoli Commission
5 Wilhelm Haferkamp  West Germany 1977–1981
Jenkins Commission
Thorn Commission
6 Willy De Clercq  Belgium 1985–1988 Delors Commission I
7 Frans Andriessen  Netherlands 1989–1992 Delors Commission II
8 Leon Brittan  United Kingdom 1993–1995
Delors Commission III
Santer Commission
9 Pascal Lamy  France 1999–2004 Prodi Commission
10 Danuta Hübner  Poland 2004 Prodi Commission
11 Peter Mandelson  United Kingdom 2004–2008 Barroso Commission I
12 Catherine Ashton  United Kingdom 2008–2009 Barroso Commission I
13 Benita Ferrero-Waldner  Austria 2009–2010 Barroso Commission I
14 Karel De Gucht  Belgium 2010 onwards Barroso Commission II

See also

External links


  1. ^ De Gucht was proposed by the Belgian federal government, with the post of Trade Commissioner being assigned by Barroso. The whole Commission was then nominated by the Council of the European Union and approved by the European Parliament.
  3. ^ Base salary of grade 16, third step is €17,697.68: European Commission: Officials' salaries – accessed 19 March 2010
  4. ^ The New Commission – Some initial thoughts BM Brussels
  5. ^ Commissioner: Mandate, European Commission
  6. ^ a b MEMBER INFORMATION: The European Union and the WTO, WTO – accessed 18 March 2010
  7. ^ EU and WTO, EU Delegation to Japan
  8. ^
  9. ^ Willis, Andrew (19 March 2010) De Gucht criticises China and US on trade, EU Observer
  10. ^ "Northrop and EADS exit tanker bid". BBC News. 9 March 2010. 
  11. ^ "EU concern over end of tanker bid". BBC News. 9 March 2010. 
  12. ^ Chaffin, Joshua; George Parker (4 October 2008). "EU president backs trade role for Ashton". Financial Times. Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Catherine Ashton, EU Trade Commissioner, Trade website". European Union. 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2008. 
  15. ^ Opening statement for European Parliament Hearing European Commission
  16. ^ 'Golden share' could protect EU companies from takeover: Mandelson EU Business, 23 July 2007.
  17. ^ Mandelson to step down as EU commissioner The Guardian
  18. ^ Phillips, Leigh (3 October 2008) Trade commissioner Mandelson resigns, EU Observer

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