Virtual Special Issue: EU Trade Policy Journal of European Public Policy

Journal of European Public Policy

Guest Editor: Andreas Dür (University of Salzburg)

Trade policymaking has been a core competence of the European Union (EU) ever since its creation. Already shortly after the signing of the Rome Treaties, the EU – then the European Economic Community – engaged in trade negotiations with third countries in the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The Tokyo and Uruguay Rounds of multilateral trade negotiations broadened the scope of trade negotiations to cover first standards and later issues such as investments and intellectual property rights. Over the past twenty years, the EU has also signed a large number of preferential trade agreements with countries across the globe. While much of this happened outside the public eye, the negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that started in 2013 have increased the public salience of trade policymaking. The negotiations on the exit of Great Britain from the EU, which in key respects are about trade, ensure that EU trade policymaking will remain in the public spotlight in years to come.

Given the importance of this policy area, it is not astonishing that a thriving field of research has developed that studies EU trade policy. The resulting literature can be divided into two strands. On the one hand, a set of studies deals with the internal side of EU trade policy. Some of these studies focus on the evolution of the EU’s trade policy competencies. Because of the changing nature of trade negotiations over time, the European Court of Justice repeatedly had to rule on whether specific issues dealt with in these negotiations were covered by the EU’s trade policy competence. Moreover, repeated revisions of the EU’s treaties have shifted more competencies to the EU level, for example with respect to trade-related aspects of foreign direct investments. Another aspect looked at by this group of studies is the extent to which the European Commission can act autonomously in shaping EU trade policy. While some authors see the Commission as a run-away agent, others conceive of the Commission as being tightly controlled by member states. Some research has also examined the origin of the EU’s preferences in EU trade policy, that is, whose interests the EU actually defends in its trade policy. For example, the EU’s trade preferences can be a result of lobbying by societal interests such as exporters, importers or import-competing firms. 

On the other hand, several publications focus on the external side of EU trade policy, and here especially on the effectiveness of the EU’s trade policy. The literature shows considerable disagreement on this issue, possibly reflecting variation across issue areas in how much influence the EU can exert in trade negotiations. Some authors conceive of the EU as a major “power in trade” and also a “power through trade”. That is, they argue that the EU does not only manage to achieve its trade preferences (for example, better foreign market access), but that it can also use its large market to achieve non-trade goals, such as better protection of labour standards in third countries. Other authors are more sceptical about the EU’s power in international trade negotiations, either because the EU often finds it difficult to formulate a consistent preference or because foreign market access for its exporters is sufficiently important for the EU to make it eager to complete trade deals (which in turn reduces its bargaining power). 

The Journal of European Public Policy (JEPP) has published important contributions to both of these strands of literature, the internal and the external. Examples of studies published in JEPP that relate to the first strand are Conceicao-Heldt (2011), Dür and Elsig (2011), Eckhardt and Poletti (2015), Elgström and Frennhoff Larsen (2010), Elsig (2010), Gastinger (2016), and Poletti and De Bièvre (2014). Examples for the second set of studies are Conceição-Heldt and Meunier (2014), Dür (2011), Meunier and Nicolaïdis (2006), Postnikov and Bastiaens (2014), and Young (2015). With trade policy continuing to play a large role for the EU and beyond, this list of studies is certain to expand soon. 

Articles listed below will be free for you to access via this page until the end of 2017.