The question on ‘The end of globalisation?’ (conference theme) is particularly relevant in the context of international trade. At an uprecedented pace, countries have engaged in bilateral trade agreements extending liberalization to areas that were previously the domain of national politics. At the same time, trade policy has never been as contested as today, as can be witnessed from the debates on the Brexit referendum and the US elections.
Trade policy has also become one of the most controversial political areas in the European Union, as the recent debate on CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada) as well as on TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the US) illustrate. Since the 2006 Global Europe trade strategy, the EU has pursued an ambitious and comprehensive trade agenda around a “New Generation”- Trade Agreements that cover a broad set of issues, including not only liberalisation of trade in goods, agricultural products and services, but also investment protection (including dispute settlement), public procurement, geographical indications, as well as the alignment of all kinds of “Non-Tariff Barriers” through a process of “Regulatory Cooperation”, such as technical standards, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, testing and certification procedures and many more issues that are traditionally considered to be part of domestic regulation.
On the other hand these agreements also include comprehensive sustainable developmentchapters that aim at safeguarding minimal labor and environmental standards and that institutionalize civil society mechanisms for monitoring these commitments. The recent “Trade for All” strategy puts more emphasis on fair, value-based and responsible trade, which is also in line with the EU’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. It is however doubtful if these initiative will be successful in balancing the liberalization agenda behind the trade agreements, diminishing domestic and global inequalities, and providing a new ‘social’ or ‘sustainable development’ compact at the global level. If not, forces favouring ‘the end of globalization’ may well become more popular in the next years and decades.
Then years after the Global Europe trade strategy, this panel will discuss the implications of the ‘new generation’ of EU trade agreements for the Global South. While the aforementioned trade agreements have stirred up a controversial public debate in Europe, the implications and impacts on the countries of the Global South have not featured very prominently in these debates. Nonetheless, given the EU’s legal obligation for policy coherence for development, this issue deserves careful attention. In the panel, the political, economic and social implications of the new EU trade policy approach will be discussed by papers from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and theoretical perspectives. We are looking in a particular for papers that (i) provide assessments of economic, political and social impacts of particular EU agreements on developing countries, (ii) discuss the interrelations, i.e. contradictions and complementarities between EU Trade Policy and other policy areas, in particular ForeignPolicy and Development Policy, and (iii) provide suggestions for complementary policies that aim at making EU trade policy conducive to socio-economic development in the global South.
Prof Dr Jan Orbie, Director, Centre for EU Studies, Ghent University
Dr Werner Raza, Director, ÖFSE – Austrian Foundation for Development Research