EU lawyers are long used to reflecting on the fundamental ways in which the legal systems and governance of its component States have been affected by their membership of the European Union. In more recent times, however, and in particular since the conclusion of the Uruguay round and the signing of the World Trade Organisation Agreements in 1994, lawyers are confronting an ever more complex set of questions concerning the relationship between the norms of the different systems, and the impact of the strengthened system of international trade law not only on the states individually but also on the EU and its institutions. There are numerous aspects to the question of how, in substantive and procedural terms, the process of political and legal decision-making in the European Union is affected by the EC's membership of the WTO. Most obviously, there are a number of hotly debated legal issues, which are addressed elsewhere in this book,1 dealing with the exact legal status and effect of WTO norms within the European legal order. Secondly, there are sector-specific questions concerning how particular EC policies are affected by provisions the provisions of the relevant agreements. Thirdly, there is a need to examine the extent to which and the way in which the EU institutions and organs seek to integrate the substantive obligations contained in the various agreements into their political and legislative processes. A fourth and significant dimension which is not often explored concerns the likely impact not of the actual provisions of the WTO Agreements, but of the general principles and due process norms being developed by the dispute settlement bodies, not only on the adjudicative methods of the Court of Justice, but also more generally in the interpretation of provisions of the EC Treaties and EC law in particular when the scrutiny of trade restrictions arises.
This chapter concentrates primarily on the third and fourth categories outlined above, and it is divided into three parts. The first part considers briefly some of the points of comparison and contrast between the EU and the WTO, and the relevance of these similarities and differences for the interpretation and effect of the respective norms of each system. The second part takes two case studies in order to examine in more concrete detail some of the ways in which WTO norms and provisions are likely to influence and be integrated into the EC decision-making processes. The first of these examines the recently proposed amendment to the EC Cosmetics Directive and the second the ramifications of a pending legal challenge to a recent Regulation on aircraft noise. The final part of the paper considers the general principles and procedural norms evolving and being developed at WTO level, and at how these are likely to be relevant for the ECJ and EC decision-making bodies more generally.
1 See in particular the chapters of Armin Von Bogdandy and Tilman Makatsch "Collision, Coexistence or Cooperation? Prospects of the Relationship between WTO Law and European Union Law" and Steve Peers "Fundamental Right or Political Whim? WTO law and the European Court of Justice".