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Johan Adriaensen

What role does the Council of the European Union fulfil in EU trade policy? In this chapter, I argue that the Council fulfils both a legislative as well as an executive function. Starting from the legal foundations, three different instruments of EU trade policy are distinguished, each with their own decision-making procedures and each with a different role for the Council. Supplanting such a legal framework with an administrative perspective provides the reader with the type of practical knowledge that facilitates a better understanding of the existing literature but also clarifies the aptness of a focus on both the Council’s legislative and executive roles. A third layer adds a political perspective by overviewing the academic literature. This perspective highlights the Council’s role (1) as a legislative body, seeking to control the European Commission (particularly in external negotiations), (2) as a defender of national competencies before the court of justice, and (3) as an executive body whose decision-making process is less characterized by political conflict and bargaining and more by collective problem-solving, coordination and cooperation. The chapter ends with a prospective outlook and lays down three directions for future research on the Council in the domain of trade policy.