The European Union is the world’s biggest trader, accounting for 20% of global imports and exports. Free trade among its members was one of the founding principles of the EU, and it is committed to liberalising world trade for the benefit of rich and poor countries alike.
Trade is everybody's business. Trade policy affects us all, every day, whatever we do and wherever we live. Without trade, our lives would be severely restricted. Think of our morning tea or coffee, the cars we drive, the computers we increasingly depend on or holidays on another continent.
Globalisation is bringing more and more countries, rich and poor, into the world economy and subjecting them to increased competition. This process is changing how we trade and how we go about our everyday activities.
The development of trade - if properly managed - is also an opportunity for economic growth. The key is for the EU economy to be competitive and establish a set of internationally agreed rules.
In international trade negotiations, the EU's 27 members are represented by the European Commission.