The European Union’s (EU) Common Commercial Policy (CCP) is more fragile than the label ‘exclusive competence’ suggests. Ratification conflicts have increased since the 1980s and have further intensified in recent years. Simultaneously, the EU’s trade competence witnessed a progressive expansion in consecutive treaty reforms. In recourse to the ‘failing forward’ (Jones et al., 2016) argument, this paper argues that recurring failure and progressive integration have been equally constitutive elements in the CCP’s historical development. The substantive expansion of the international ‘deep trade’ agenda repeatedly laid bare the gaps in and fuelled intergovernmental conflict over the scope of the EU’s competences. Over time, these instabilities acted as a catalyst of integration, supporting supranational entrepreneurs’ quest for – and member state governments’ acceptance of – further yet ever-incomplete delegation. The paper thus demonstrates that, under certain conditions, the failing forward argument is applicable even to the EU’s historical core of regulatory market-making.
Christian Freudlsperger (2021) Failing forward in the Common Commercial Policy? Deep trade and the perennial question of EU competence, Journal of European Public Policy.