The EU government of international trade: Towards a research agenda

Type de publication:



Smith, Andy


Gedi Working Papers (2009)


commerce international, GEDI


However one defines ‘globalization’, increasing trade across nations is always a central part of this notion. More precisely, the political issue associated with this trend is the question of how to govern international trade through rules – a challenge which in turn provokes debate about the patterns of interaction through which they are formulated and implemented. Despite the political topicality of this quest for government and the controversies it has repeatedly sparked[1], however, international trade has yet to become a central concern of European social science. This is particularly so when the focus is narrowed to how the European Union (EU) has sought to govern international trade. In contrast to a relative wealth of research on the formulation of US government actions on trade, specialists themselves commonly accept that ‘the literature on European trade policy – and especially the role of the EU in international negotiations- is relatively thin’ (Dür and Zimmermann, 2007: 772). Indeed, as these authors then proceed to underline, ‘single case studies on the most visible negotiating processes and works covering few trade sectors dominate the field’. Moreover, it should be added that such studies are generally presented in a descriptive fashion lacking in explicit references to theory.
The purpose of this paper is twofold. Firstly it sets out to identify and map the approaches that have thus far been employed to study the EU’s government of external trade (1). Secondly, it briefly sets out what a GEDI approach to this issue area would be and the value this would be likely to add to existing knowledge (2). In short, the paper has been conceived, researched and written in order to make a first step towards the conducting of new empirical research in the field of external trade which draws explicitly and consistently upon the GEDI framework of analysis.

[1] See Annexe 1 for a chronology of these ‘events’.