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The EU, the WTO and trade in services: power and negotiation in the international political economy

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posted on 2012-11-07, 16:37 authored by Carina Gerlach
For the European Union (EU), the field of trade policy is a main field in which the EU can assert its actorness and build its identity as an international actor. This "superpower" potential arises out of the EU's extensive resource equipment in trade policy and is driven forward by the EU's significant economic interests. To what extent, however, the EU has been able to use its resources to shape the rules of the international trade regime according to its own preferences has remained questionable. This thesis investigates the question of the EU's impact on and power utilisation in the international trade regime by analysing the EU's changing involvement in World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations. Drawing from the theoretical concepts of the "international regime" and "power", the thesis proposes an approach centred on the possession, mobilisation and impact of actors' power in international regimes. In particular, the thesis proposes a framework centred on five key elements: specification of the regime, its qualities and focus; the resources or 'underlying power' that actors bring to the regime; the resources derived by actors from the operation of the regime itself, or 'organisationally dependent capabilities'; the manifestation or deployment of resources and strategies by actors in negotiations; and outcomes defined in terms of actors' power over the regime itself. After an examination of the broad context of the WTO's development and the EU's involvement in the international trade regime, this framework is then explored through a detailed study of the EU's involvement in the negotiations over trade in services that took place in the WTO between 1995 and 2005, using evidence from a wide range of documentary sources and from interviews. On the basis of this exploration of trade in services, the thesis finds that despite the EU's outstanding resources, the WTO negotiations have become too complex for the EU to decisively influence them due to a power shift in the international trade regime. The special nature of the trade in services negotiations makes these particularly unmanageable and they do not seem to present the EU with a setting for achieving its preferences. A lack of cooperation among the WTO members in favour of the negotiations has made progress in the negotiations very hard to realise for the EU. At the same time, the erosion of the EU's resources by the shifting attitude in civil society towards trade policy, and an apparent Jack of business support, has increased the challenge for the EU of managing the international trade regime. Questions are therefore raised about the extent to which the EU has responded to change, mobilised its resources effectively and had a consistent impact on the international trade regime since the mid-1990s.



  • Social Sciences


  • Politics and International Studies


© Carina Gerlach

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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