Handbook on the EU and International Trade
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Handbook on the EU and International Trade

Edited by Sangeeta Khorana and María García

The Handbook on the EU and International Trade presents a multidisciplinary overview of the major perspectives, actors and issues in contemporary EU trade relations. Changes in institutional dynamics, Brexit, the politicisation of trade, competing foreign policy agendas, and adaptation to trade patterns of value chains and the digital and knowledge economy are reshaping the European Union's trade policy. The authors tackle how these challenges frame the aims, processes and effectiveness of trade policy making in the context of the EU's trade relations with developed, developing and emerging states in the global economy.
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Chapter 13: The role of ideas in legitimating EU trade policy: from the Single Market Programme to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Ferdi De Ville and Gabriel Siles-Brügge


Ideas matter in politics, but, sadly, this is a point that has often been missed in the study of EU trade policy. Ideas may influence what actors think should be the objectives of trade policy or be used strategically to justify a certain policy course to convince (or coerce) otherwise critical actors. We analyse this dual role of ideas in EU trade policy from the completion of the European Single Market Programme (1992) to the recent negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We argue that what could be called the ‘free trade paradigm’ has been consistently dominant over this period in shaping the policy and pronouncements of the European Commission officials responsible for external trade. However, ideas from other paradigms have been also been attached to this central ideational thread at various points in order to respond to increasing criticism of ‘free trade’.

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