My work on EU trade politics began with my PhD dissertation, which was published by Manchester University Press as Extending European Cooperation: The European Union and the ‘New’ International Trade Agenda (2002). It culminated in Parochial Global Europe: 21st Century Trade Politics (Oxford University Press, 2014), which I co-authored with John Peterson (University of Edinburgh). We argue that EU trade policy (and trade policy more generally) is in fact composed of multiple, distinct policies. This observation, while seemingly obvious, is often overlooked and has significant analytical implications. In common with the ‘open economy politics’ approach, we focus on the constellation of societal actors’ preferences and the pattern of political institutions, as well as the focus of the autonomous preferences of governmental actors. Our approach differs in that we stress that these factors are influenced by the character of the trade policy and/or the balance of economic power with the trade partner(s) in question. In addition, we contend that the different political dynamics to which these elements give rise constitute distinct trade policy sub-systems. Different sub-systems produce policy outcomes that can (and often do) clash.
Our approach thus helps to explain the apparent contradictions and tensions in EU trade policy; liberal in some respects, protectionist in others. Problems of policy coherence are particularly pronounced when the EU seeks to use trade policy as a tool of its broader foreign policy, usually because the political dynamics of any specific trade instrument’s sub-system deflects or distorts any overarching political intent. The EU’s preoccupation with its own internal politics and policy has hampered its efforts to play a global role, hence our book’s title. To read an excerpt from this book, click here. To read a review, click here.