Working with the WTO
The European Commission negotiates at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on behalf of the European Union and all of its 27 Member States. While every EU Member State is a WTO member in its own right, the EU speaks with one voice in the WTO and acts as a single block.
The European Commission coordinates with the EU Member States through the Trade Policy Committee, and conducts EU policy following the guidelines and negotiating directives set down by the Member States in the Council of Ministers. The European Commission regularly informs the European Parliament of key WTO issues. When an agreement is negotiated at the WTO, the Commission needs the formal authorisation of both the Council and the European Parliament to sign the agreement on behalf of the EU (see also EU trade policy making).
The Commission also consults with other interested groups (see Civil Society) in the formulation of trade policy.
The WTO's highest decision-making body is the Ministerial Conference, which meets at least every two years. The EU Trade Commissioner represents the EU in this forum (see Commissioner for Trade De Gucht). The latest conferences were in Cancun (2003), Hong Kong (2005) and Geneva (2009 and 2011). The next Ministerial Conference will take place in December 2013 in Bali, Indonesia.
The General Council of the WTO acts on behalf of the Ministerial Conference. The European Commission represents the EU in the General Council as well as in the other formations of the General Council which meet on a regular basis, such as the Dispute Settlement Body or the Trade Policy Review Body. The Commission also represents the EU in subsidiary WTO bodies, e.g. the Council for Trade in Goods or the Committee for Trade and the Environment.