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Abstract

On 16 May 2017, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) delivered a long-awaited opinion on the legal nature of the free trade agreement between the EU and Singapore (Opinion 2/15). This decision was highly anticipated as it was expected to clarify uncertainties of several aspects of the EU Common Commercial Policy (CCP) which has broadened in scope after the Lisbon Treaty. The CJEU’s conclusion on the division of competences and its possible impacts on the CCP immediately sparked a debate within the Union’s institutions about its future direction. In particular, the architecture of EU free trade agreements, the dominant tool of the CCP at the beginning of the 21st century, is now under scrutiny. Trade deals without investment provisions could potentially simplify many steps which now burden the treaty-making process. This paper discusses Opinion 2/15 and its significance for the future development of the CCP. It explores and analyses the implications for shaping the post-Lisbon CCP with regard to two specific areas: investment protection and sustainable development. The paper concludes that a new architecture for EU trade agreements could be further improved as there is a potential to preserve the CCP as both an operational and ambitious trade policy. In this respect, comprehensive FTAs encompassing trade, investment and sustainability deserve a second thought in the EU.

Keywords: Common Commercial Policy, free trade agreement, competence, investment protection, sustainable development.