Case A-2/15, The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement – a mixed agreement?

In October 2014, the EU and Singapore concluded a free trade agreement. However, there is uncertainty surrounding how to classify the legal agreement. That is to say, is it an agreement which the EU has exclusive competence to sign and ratify? Or is it a ‘mixed agreement’ which would mean that the approval of every single parliament in every single Member State is also required before the agreement can be ratified?

Background
Singapore is the EU’s largest commercial partner in ASEAN. In October 2014, the EU and Singapore concluded a free trade agreement.

The EU Commission has a dedicated webpage which explains the commercial importance of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Cryptically, that webpage also explains that, “An opinion of the Court of Justice will clarify on the EU competence to sign and ratify the free trade agreement with Singapore before the approval procedure of the FTA is launched.”

Further information about the EU Commission’s request for a CJEU legal opinion on the precise legal status of the EU Singapore FTA is also in today’s edition of the Official Journal (OJ [2015] C332/45).

The edition publishes the ECOSOC’s “Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on investor protection and investor to state dispute settlement in EU trade and investment agreements with third countries” (2015/C 332/06).

Footnote 4 of the dissenter’s Annex to the ECOSOC Opinion explains: “Also still to be ratified, and subject to legal challenge in the ECJ as to whether it [the EU-Singapore FTA] is a ‘mixed’ agreement and therefore needing approval by all Member States Parliaments.”

Questions Referred
The Curia website has yet to publish the detailed wording of the official request for a legal opinion from the CJEU.

Comment
The EU Commission has also asked the CJEU for a legal opinion on the precise legal status of the Marrakesh Agreement; see further, Case A-3/15, The Marrakesh Treaty – disability, copyright and exclusive competence for the EU?

Update – 4 November 2015
According to the EU’s Official Journal (OJ C363/18), the questions asked read:

Does the Union have the requisite competence to sign and conclude alone the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore? More specifically:

— Which provisions of the agreement fall within the Union’s exclusive competence?

— Which provisions of the agreement fall within the Union’s shared competence? and

— Is there any provision of the agreement that falls within the exclusive competence of the Member States?

 

Update – 16 August 2016
According to the Curia website, the Full Court will start to hear this case on Monday 12 September 2016 in the afternoon and then recommence on Tuesday 13 September 2016.

From the fact about the considerable number of judges turning up to hear this case, and the fact of there being more than one day set aside for the oral hearing; it can be inferred that this case is of great potential legal significance.

Update – 11 December 2016
The Opinion of Advocate General Sharpston is due on 21 December 2016.