The politics of deep trade integration

by Adam B Lerner

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An Anti-TTIP flash mob, Hanover, 2014. Image: Campact via Flickr

The editorial team of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs is proud to present Volume 30, Issue 5/6, a special issue on the politics of deep trade integration, edited by Alasdair R. Young. Recent developments in the realm of trade policy, such as the UK’s Brexit negotiations and Donald Trump’s introduction of new tariff barriers, have brought anti-globalisation politics to the front pages. In this context, this issue’s contributions are as timely as they are insightful. Focusing primarily on recent negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the EU– Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the EU–Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EUJEPA), this issue reflects on the sub-national, national and transnational politics of trade. Together, its articles endeavour to help readers understand the politics, institutional dynamics and socio-cultural challenges involved in deep trade agreements. 

As Young writes in his introduction to this special issue, recent deep trade agreements have included far more substantial policy changes than simple tariff reductions. This broadening has triggered substantial controversy among various constituencies concerned about their home country’s sovereignty and the viability of their preferred policy regimes. In recent negotiations, discordant domestic regulations – such as safety standards for automobiles, chemicals and foodstuffs – ‘have emerged as the most significant barriers to trade in goods’. Likewise, recent deep trade agreements have sought to harmonise domestic intellectual property regimes between negotiating partners to promote further compatibility. Criticism of these deep trade agreements’ impact on sovereignty has arguably fuelled economic nationalist movements including Brexit, Trump’s rise and Marine Le Pen’s unsuccessful bid to become president of France.  

The first two articles of this issue focus primarily on Europe, examining the rhetoric and strategies of supporters and opponents of TTIP and CETA. Gabriel Siles-Brügge, for instance, argues that civil society organisations (CSOs) relied on a polysemic and emotive ‘injustice frame’ to successfully mobilise against provisions in TTIP and CETA. Aware of the dualistic nature of political activism, Siles-Brügge also analyses how the EU Commission changed policy and coopted CSOs’ rhetoric in response to their opposition. While these changes failed to satisfy most CSOs, Siles-Brügge writes, they ‘placated pivotal actors and allowed the Commission to move forward’. Patricia García-Durán Huet and Leif Johan Eliasson, on other hand, focus more explicitly on the EU Commission’s role in the TTIP negotiations. Drawing upon Albert Hirschman’s work on the ‘rhetoric of reaction’, they offer a detailed rhetorical analysis of official speech acts by EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht made between 2013–2014 and his successor, Cecilia Malmström, made between 2014–2016, demonstrating how their defences of TTIP changed over time.  

Shifting the focus away from the European Commission to the EU parliament, Christilla Roederer-Rynning argues that institutional dynamics, specifically notions of institutional legitimacy, shaped the TTIP and CETA negotiations. In her view, European parliamentarians used TTIP and CETA as an opportunity for ‘parliamentary assertion’, delineating their legislative body’s authority and their own positions as EU citizens’ representatives.  

The last two articles expand this issue’s focus beyond Europe. Using the examples of the TTIP, CETA, TPP and EUJEPA negotiations, Alasdair Young finds that the degree of transnational cooperation involved in different negotiations does not only vary according to the ‘salience of a trade negotiation’. His work demonstrates that, beyond this salience, societal actors’ mobilisation ‘stems primarily from what the actors are seeking to achieve and whether they have a motive and opportunity to work together’. Finally, Patricia Goff examines the complexity implicit in Canada’s simultaneous negotiation of CETA and TPP. She argues that the competing demands of different negotiating partners created a ‘two-level game with a twist’ that affected the extent of deep integration Canada could pursue in each agreement. 

The Cambridge Review of International Affairs (CRIA), the University of Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies’ flagship journal is published online and in print six times a year by Taylor and Francis. Now in its thirtieth year, CRIA publishes original scholarship on international affairs. It is committed to publishing diverse approaches, methods and areas of analysis, and encourages the submission of interdisciplinary work from academics and policymakers.

About the author

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Adam B. Lerner is Editor-in-Chief of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs and a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge.

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