The tables have turned on the European Commission: the changing nature of the pre-negotiation phase in EU bilateral trade agreements
We argue that one prime source of Commission autonomy in bilateral trade negotiations was the informational advantage that it acquired during the pre-negotiations, which is the phase preceding the adoption of negotiating directives by the Council. Initially, the Commission was entirely unmonitored owing to the lack of Treaty provisions applying to this stage in the negotiations. The Commission used this information asymmetry strategically vis-à-vis the Council to move outcomes closer to its ideal point. Later, member states have stepped up police-patrol monitoring manifesting itself empirically through two different channels. First, they have shifted the institutional arena for more political aspects to annual ministerial meetings. Second, preparatory works on a technical level are today followed by national experts. We examine this argument by adopting a principal–agent perspective and against the backdrop of EU–India relations.