In a time of trade wars, free trade skepticism, tech rivalry, and multipolar disorder, the European Union (EU) cannot evade its responsibilities the last defender of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yet, it raises the question of whether the EU has power to defend the WTO. The EU is a multilateralist-oriented power of global magnitude. Unlike the United States, the EU is openly defending the WTO in the current crisis created by continued refusal to appointment WTO Appellate Body members. Like the United States, the EU is concerned with the illegitimate trade practices of China. Yet, the EU uses diplomatic pressure on China within the rules of the WTO. The EU is actively trying to rescue the rule-based trade system. Yet, it cannot do so alone. It needs support, not just form other WTO members but also from within Europe itself. The current crisis is in part rooted in the inability of the WTO members to update the WTO rulebook. The focus will be on the potential clash between a more assertive EU on sustainability and the absence of updated WTO rules on sustainable trade issues. This may force the EU to confront a deep-rooted policy dilemma. The question is whether the EU should continue to refrain from using its market power to promote sustainable trade in respect of the WTO. As the EU is about to ratify several bilateral trade agreements of commercial, geo-economic, and indeed geo-political importance, such as the EU–Mercosur or EU–Vietnam agreements, the rule-orientation of the EU faces growing domestic opposition as well as external contestation. Furthermore, the EU is modernizing its trade defense weaponry, the antidumping instrument, and has recently declared its intent to impose unilateral climate-related trade policy measures, the carbon-adjustment tariff, in the future. Thus, an incident such as the burning of the Amazon forest may force the EU to take a tougher stance on sustainability at the risk of bringing the EU on a collision course with the WTO itself, its rules, process, and member states. Consequently, the complex setup of the EU as a trade power could make it difficult to ratify WTO-compatible trade agreements in the future.
Jens Ladefoged Mortensen
Kerry A. Chase
Government policies to protect and promote national culture are a perennial issue in the trading system. Controversy over trade and culture, in almost every instance, swirls around entertainment media—mainly movies, television, video, and music. The object of contention is that many states employ an assortment of financial, trade, and regulatory measures to subsidize locally produced entertainment, restrict imports, and favor national content over foreign content. Such measures often impede trade, pitting commercial interests in open markets and free choice against calls for state action to mitigate trade’s social repercussions. Differing perspectives on the motives behind these policies typify disputes over trade and culture. In one view, state regulation of entertainment media is cultural policy, an essential means of preserving a nation’s identity, culture, and way of life. From another vantage point, these policies are backdoor protectionism, a handout to local business and labor under the guise of cultural preservation. The problem of trade and culture therefore raises basic questions about politics: Why do states subsidize production and restrict imports? What drives political demands for trade protection and government aid? How can variation in policy responses be understood? In the World Trade Organization (WTO), disputes over trade and culture center on two related issues. The first is inclusion of a “cultural exception” in trade rules to green-light, on cultural grounds, state actions that interfere with trade in entertainment media. Although there is no cultural exception in the WTO, pressure to accommodate the “specificity” of entertainment media as a cultural phenomenon has complicated trade negotiations and at times required give and take to placate the opposing sides. The second issue is policy liberalization in entertainment media, which has lagged behind market opening in many other goods and services. Deadlock over trade and culture has inspired some WTO members to explore other options: the European Union (EU) and Canada spearheaded the push for a Convention on Cultural Diversity, and the United States has pursued policy liberalization in a series of free trade agreements. Important political questions again crop up: Why has culture stalemated the WTO, and why haven’t trade linkages like those for health safety standards been institutionalized for trade and culture? Why do international political alignments on this problem form as they do? What explains the design of trade rules for entertainment media, and what is the trade regime’s impact on state policy? The age-old conflict over trade and culture continues to play out and shows no signs of abating.
In 1958, the European Economic Community was formed as a customs union with a common external tariff. From then on, the Common Commercial Policy—also known as the European Union’s (EU) trade policy—served as the interface between the increasingly integrated common market and its external trade partners. Like the creation of the single market, contemporary trade policy has long transcended discussions about tariffs and quotas at the border and has focused increasingly on the impediments to trade caused by regulatory divergences. Whether they concern agricultural subsidies or cultural protections, rules on public procurement or food standards, insofar as a regulation discriminates against exporters, it can potentially be part of a trade negotiation. The evolving nature of trade policy has triggered a redefinition of both the scope of the EU’s exclusive competencies as well as the procedures to govern this policy domain. The central actor in EU trade policy is the European Commission, which is the designated negotiator for external trade agreements. Whereas member states always played a crucial role in overseeing such negotiations in the Council, the European Parliament has only taken up a position of power since 2009. Beyond securing market access abroad and protecting domestic sectors at home, post-material values have come to feature more prominently in the balancing act of contemporary trade discussions. This has galvanized a far wider range of societal actors to lobby the EU institutions in order to tilt the balance in their favor. Complicating matters even further, the EU conducts a large part of its foreign policy through the Common Commercial Policy. Contrary to most other instruments of the EU’s external action, trade policy is an exclusive competency of the EU. Fostering development, promoting stability, providing humanitarian aid, and the promotion and enforcement of human rights and sustainable development commitments are but a few of the many objectives pursued via trade policy. However, there are clear limitations to the fungibility of the EU’s large market power for foreign policy objectives. It should therefore be clear that the literature on the Common Commercial Policy is extremely diverse. Situated at the nexus of international political economy, regulatory governance, and foreign policy, it has become a well-studied policy domain through a great variety of theoretical and disciplinary lenses. The prominence of trade scholarship in EU studies is unlikely to change soon as developments at the international level, where the Western liberal order is under increasing pressure, but also domestically, where the contestation of several trade negotiations and the position of trade policy within the EU’s broader external action, are set to animate future debates.
Hitoshi Suzuki, Yu Suzuki, and Yoshimi Igawa
Japan and the European Union have historically developed relations, from trade conflicts to mutual cooperation between global actors. Japan’s prewar attitude and postwar rapid reconstruction caused misunderstandings and frictions, but these were gradually overcome thanks to the efforts made by Japan, the European Commission and member state governments. After the Cold War ended, policy fields of cooperation expanded from “mutual” market liberalization to foreign direct investments, aid, security, and environment. Japan and the EU jointly aided the newly liberalized countries in Central Eastern Europe, while the EU sought to strengthen its relations with countries in the Asia-Pacific. The Japan–EU Economic Partnership Agreement and the Strategic Partnership Agreement of 2018 were signed on the 50th anniversary of the customs union. The Agreements are jointly aimed by both parties to foster global free trade and shared values. For the first time in postwar history, Japan and the EU had reached an agreement before achieving one with the United States. Japan–EU relations are the strongest they have been since 1959 when the Japanese Mission to the European Communities and the European Commission Delegation to Japan were established. But the security threats in the Pacific indicate that bilateral relations between Japan and member states—the United Kingdom and France at the forefront—are still in play. The impact of Brexit, estimated to be felt more on the Japanese side, is also an issue requiring close study.
Official relations between Chile and the European Union (formerly the European Communities) date back to 1967 when the two parties first opened diplomatic representations in Brussels and Santiago, respectively. As Chile transitioned to a democratic polity from 1990, the relationship deepened. Reflecting the EU’s support for democratization in Latin America, both parties formalized ties through the signing of a Cooperation Framework Agreement in 1991 and a Framework Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation in 1996. The latter set Chile and the EU on the path to eventually negotiating an Association Agreement, including a preferential trade agreement (PTA), between 1999 and 2002. The Association Agreement has been in force since 2003, and in 2017 Chile and the EU decided to launch negotiations to modernize the preferential trade agreement part of the Association. The bilateral relationship, and its study, have been defined by three key areas: (1) political relations, (2) cooperation relations, and (2) economic relations. The political and cooperation ties between the two parties have, in turn, been determined by two strands of EU external policies: (1) the EU’s overarching approach toward relations with Latin America, and (2) the evolution of the EU’s development policy. Economic relations, for their part, cover rising trade flows and increasing investment (especially EU foreign direct investment outflows and stocks in Chile). Chile’s attractiveness, despite its relatively small economy and population, derives from its specific political economy. Chile’s painful market reforms under the Pinochet regime set it on a path of greater economic openness than its neighbours. Democratic governments since 1990 have continued policies of trade liberalization, low tariffs, and active engagement in the creation of a dense network of global preferential trade agreements with Chile at its center as a gateway to Latin America. This has helped to diversify Chilean trade relations away from overreliance on the EU or the United States, and has made Chile an attractive target for foreign investment. The trade agreement part of the Association Agreement ushered in deeper economic ties, and a body of scholarly analyses of the agreement and its impacts has slowly emerged. Relations with Chile have formed part of the EU’s broader strategy toward Latin America, rather than independent EU strategy. Initial steps toward an Association Agreement were within the context of negotiations for an Association Agreement between the EU and MERCOSUR (the Common Market of the South). Analysis of the EU–Chile relationship has, as a result, tended to be sparse and to be included as a subsection in studies of broader EU–Latin America relations, and especially EU–MERCOSUR relations. Nevertheless, the relationship represents a positive example of successful engagement with a relatively like-minded partner in a mature association, and demonstrates the extent of and possibilities for EU foreign policy engagement. Moreover, the relationship has served as a testing ground for new types of projects and collaborations and for mutual learning, such as the parties’ joint projects on increasing gender representation in politics, or the inclusion of gender clauses, for the first time in an EU preferential trade agreement, in the modernization of the EU–Chile agreement.
Roberto Dominguez and Joshua Weissman LaFrance
The history of the European Union (EU) is closely associated with the development of the United States. As the process of European integration has produced institutions and gained a collective international presence, the United States has been a close observer, partner, and often critic of the policies and actions of the EU and its member states. A steady progression of events delineates this path: the Marshall Plan, origins of European integration, the Cold War, the post–Cold War, 9/11 and its effects on the international system, the Great Recession, and the deterioration of global democracy. All throughout, the EU and the United States have both cooperated and collided with one another, in line with the combination of three main factors: (a) the evolution of the EU as an independent, international actor; (b) American strategies for engagement with Europe and then with the EU; and (c) the adaptive capacity and cohesion of the overall transatlantic relationship. The EU–U.S. relationship is significant not only for the influential role of the EU in world affairs but also because, as opposed to China or Russia, the transatlantic area hosts one of the most solid relationships around the world. Crises surely have been, and will be, a frequent aspect of the intense interdependences on both sides of the Atlantic; however, the level of contestation and conflict is relatively low, particularly as compared with other areas that smoothly allow the flow of goods, services, people, and ideas. Taken altogether, then, the transatlantic relationship possesses a strong foundation: it is integral, resilient, and enduring over a history of diplomatic disagreements and conflicts. The primary question remains just how this steady stream and confluence of shared challenges ultimately will fare in face of evolving crises and systemic disruptors. In any case, the answer is determined by the enduring nature, and foreign policy choices, of the primary actors on each side of the Atlantic.