The EU conceives of free trade agreements (FTAs) as ‘levers’ to promote European values and social norms, such as human rights, labour standards and sustainable development, in its external relations with third countries. This chapter critically assesses the extent to which EU FTAs can serve as a mechanism to promote EU social norms across transnational spaces. It will be shown that there exists a spectrum of social norms within EU FTAs, many of which are non-justiciable under the FTA dispute settlement mechanism. This chapter problematizes the enforceability of social norms in EU FTAs and concludes that the ‘soft’ enforcement approach of the EU could be strengthened through more effective impact assessment and more meaningful engagement with civil society actors.
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