The Power of Economic Ideas: A Constructivist Political Economy of EU Trade Policy
The European Union’s (EU’s) 2006 Global Europe communication established an offensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) agenda premised on serving the interests of the EU’s upmarket exporters at the expense of the EU’s remaining “pockets of protection”. This has remained in place with the advent of the 2010 Trade, Growth and World Affairs strategy. Such a development defies both rationalist International Political Economy (IPE) explanations – which emphasise the protectionist bias of societal mobilisation – and accounts stressing the institutional insulation of policy-makers from societal pressures because the recent economic crisis and the increased politicisation of EU trade policy by the European Parliament have coexisted without leading to greater protectionism. Adopting a constructivist approach, we show that this turn of events can be explained by the neoliberal ideas internalised by policy-makers in the European Commission’s Directorate-General (DG) for Trade. We then deploy a novel heuristic to illustrate how DG Trade acted upon these ideas to strategically construct a powerful discursive imperative for liberalisation.
constructivism, EU trade policy, strategic discourse, Europe 2020, Global Europe, economic crisis.
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