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Matthew Eagleton-Pierce

This chapter explores the ties between EU trade policymaking and civil society. Within the politics of commercial exchange, our understanding of the relations between the EU institutions and trade-facing, civil society groups can help to inform larger questions of participation, agenda-setting, and material outcomes. Since the 1990s, the EU has faced reoccurring problems of legitimacy within this policy domain. In terms of input dimensions of legitimacy, many civil society actors have criticised the institutional mechanisms through which their voice on trade policy can be expressed and registered. In respect to output legitimacy concerns, critics have argued that aspects of EU trade policy contribute to uneven and, at times, unjust distributional consequences. This chapter seeks to clarify this complexity in different ways, including through attention to definitional problems, particular policy legacies and forms of access, and more recent struggles over the EU’s engagement with civil society. A spotlight on Oxfam is included.