Caught between the Eagle and the Dragon: EU Trade Policy in a Changing Landscape of Global Rules-based Trade

Emilie Rose Buss

Student thesis: Master thesis


The global trading system that was established after World War 2 is faced with an unprecedented level of risk, uncertainty and conflict; a disruptive American trade policy, the rise of China’s state-led economy, growing anti-globalisation sentiments and surging protectionism are some of the factors straining the WTO. How has the EU - the world’s largest and most open trading bloc - responded to these developments? While scholars have been particularly occupied with how the EU’s neoliberal trade agenda has been affected by previous economic and financial crisis, the question of how EU trade policy has been affected by recent developments remain underexplored. To contribute to filling this gap in the literature, this paper studies the EU’s trade policy discourse since the global financial crisis. By analysing the speeches of the four EU Trade Commissioners who have served since 2008, this paper demonstrates how the EU has become increasingly concerned with the political nature of the challenges in global trade. And as part of the EU’s efforts to become a more assertive actor in global trade, enforcement has been brought forward as a principal battlefield to defend the rules-based framework of global trade, including the World Trade Organisation. This provides an explanation for the EU’s shift towards a harder and more uncompromising approach to enforcement, which strengthens the Commission’s capacity to pressure trading partners into compliance with trade rules and impose trade sanctions. As such, this paper conducts a timely study into the state of multilateralism, global trade and the EU’s approach to foreign policy.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages76
SupervisorsMorten Ougaard