Abstract

The Lisbon Treaty enhanced the role of the European Parliament in free trade agreements. This article offers a comprehensive theoretical and empirical account of this new delegation design in EU trade governance. Specifically, it addresses the question how the preference cohesiveness of multiple principals—the Council of Ministers as a de jure principal and the Parliament as a de facto principal—shapes the Commission’s discretion in negotiating trade agreements. Exploring these two conjectures through a combination of primary materials and interviews, this contribution posits that those configurations of low degree of cohesiveness within the Council and high cohesiveness within the Parliament or high cohesiveness of the Council and low cohesiveness within the Parliament increase Commission discretion. A configuration of low cohesiveness within and between multiple principals, by contrast, is more likely to lead to paralysis of the negotiation process.

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