A majority of the research on EU trade policy has its roots in rationalist-institutionalism. This ‘mainstream’ has become increasingly eclectic in the past decade, and a small but growing number of authors have distanced themselves more clearly from the dominant current. However, there is no real ‘research program’ binding these scholars together and their work remains a small proportion of the field’s total output. A more expansive interpretivist agenda will require that we look at the commitments and world views of the people involved in producing it. I show where such a line of inquiry may take us: an exploration of the language, the ways of thinking and the overall institutional and discursive context in which DG Trade, national trade administrations and ‘the public’ are embedded.