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Session Overview
Panel 706: Drivers in the Construction of the EU's Trade Policy
Tuesday, 03/Sep/2019:
4:45pm - 6:15pm

Session Chair: Peg Murray-Evans, University of York
Location: Anfiteatro 1

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Drivers in the Construction of the EU's Trade Policy

Chair(s): Peg Murray-Evans (University of York)

Politicisation of EU trade policy during the contentious negotiations with of TTIP with the US have brought about a number of important theoretical and practical challenges: e.g. How can we explain the intense reactions TTIP provoked? How has this altered ideas and discourses around trade policy? How has the development and enactment of trade policy changed? This panel addresses these questions from novel constructive and institutional perspectives, and focuses on under-reseached and often-overlooked areas in trade policy (gender clauses, SMEs, technocratic committees).


Presentations of the Symposium


The Social Psychology of EU Trade Politics

Gabriel Siles-Brügge
University of Warwick

This paper sets out a social psychological approach to studying European Union (EU) trade politics. While existing accounts of EU trade policy have focused on the well-known ‘trinity’ of institutions, interests and ideas, this paper argues that emotions are key to understanding both periods of depoliticisation and politicisation in EU trade policymaking. Theoretically, the paper draws on the social movement literature on ‘emotional liberation’ and constructivist social psychological approaches to International Political Economy. Socio-economic regimes rely for their legitimation on a ‘cognitive-emotional synthesis’ of expert knowledge (to craft specific policy proposals) and an underlying, ‘fast-thinking’ ‘emotive’ component of more abstract notions that appeal to the public’s underlying values and sensitivities. Dissonance between the policies pursued by elites and these underlying popular values may result in expert knowledge being used to ‘technocratically repress’ more emotive argumentation, with various dissident actors engaging in acts of ‘emotional liberation’ to contest these government policies. Empirically, the paper illustrates the significance of social psychological factors by focusing on the European Commission’s use of ‘technocratic repression’ as a means of legitimating liberal trade policies in the aftermath of the Financial Crisis. While this was initially successful at depoliticising trade policymaking, civil society organisations (CSOs) were able to effectively politicise the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations by engaging in strategically emotive framing. Following the votes for Trump and Brexit, the Commission’s shift to an explicitly emotive frame has served to undercut these discursive strategies by drawing an equivalence between CSO opponents of liberalisation and economic populists.


The Co-optation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the European Union’s Trade Discourse: A Critical Analysis

Ferdi De Ville
Ghent University

In response to the contestation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, the European Union (EU) has singled out small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the main beneficiaries of EU trade agreements. The article critically engages with this discursive move. In reviewing the political economy of trade literature, we show that SMEs have long been overlooked as a separate interest group. We discuss when, why and how SMEs were included in the EU’s justification of trade agreements and demonstrate that it was primarily a reaction to the criticism that trade agreements were negotiated ‘for and by big business’. This discourse is then contrasted with recent research about the relationship between firm size and globalisation in general and trade agreements in particular, which shows rising market power and concentration are partly fuelled by trade liberalisation and specific provisions in modern trade agreements. Finally, we analyse how organisations representing SMEs have responded to being instrumentalised in the EU’s advocacy of trade agreements. This article contributes to the growing literature on how justifications of trade liberalisation are constructed and contested, as well as to the overlooked theme of the role of SMEs in trade politics.


Societal involvement in EU Trade policy since the TTIP: containing contention?

Johan Adriaensen
Maastricht University

The negotiations on CETA and the TTIP catapulted trade policy into the limelight of EU politics. Levels of mobilization in civil society were unprecedented, and opposition to the agreement successfully took the streets. Part of the critiques focused on the models of stakeholder consultation and perceptions about the favoring of business interests over those of consumers and NGOs. Learning from these experiences, the Commission proposed to set up a (formal) expert group on bilateral trade negotiations as part of the trade package in the 2017 state of the Union. Representing business, labour and NGOs in almost equal parts, the group is meant to ensure continuous access to policy-makers and assuage critiques about biased representation in lobbying activities. Since its first meeting in spring 2018 the group has convened almost on a monthly basis, enabling us to make a first analysis of its role and potential in channeling opposition against trade policy. Drawing on an analysis of the meeting minutes and interviews with members of the group, an initial assessment is presented.


Gendering EU Trade Policy and Preferential Trade Agreements

Maria Garcia
University of Bath

Despite growing recognition of the gendered effects of trade liberalisation (Gibb 2010, Maclaren 2012), preferential trade agreements (PTAs) have tended to ignore gender matters. The European Commission’s 2015 ‘Trade for All’ Strategy reiterated the commitment to embedding values, which include equality, in trade policy. However, in practice, the EU’s trade policy has been gender-blind (Vilup 2015, García and Masselot 2015). A change in attitude commenced in 2016 with the European Parliament holding a joint working session between the Trade and Women Committees. The European Commission, has followed suit, organising its first Women and Trade International Forum in June 2017. The Forum, however, failed to mention preferential trade agreements. Chile, for its part, has been a leader in including gender chapters in its latest PTAs, and as the EU and Chile renegotiate their 2002 Agreement, gender clauses are expected to receive heightened attention. This paper aims to scrutinise policy debates and practices evolving in real-time, as the EU develops its first Trade and Gender chapter with Chile. It addresses the question: How is the EU gendering its approach to preferential trade agreements and trade rules? Special attention will be paid to the actors and ideational drivers behind the shift, and to potential lesson-learning from the experience of other countries and its own experience with trade and sustainability chapters in PTAs since 2011. This will be operationalised through process-tracing the evolution of the incorporation of gender into the EU’s trade policy.

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