The European economy stands or falls on our ability to keep markets open, to open new markets, and to develop new areas where Europe’s inventors, investors, entrepreneurs can trade. We should pursue this objective by every means we can. Peter Mandelson (2005c: 4, emphasis added), European Commissioner for Trade (2004–08) Trade has never been more important for the European Union’s economy. In today’s difficult economic circumstances, it has become an important means of achieving much needed growth and creating jobs without drawing on public finances. European Commission (2013: 1, emphasis in the original) Anyone following the ongoing problems of the Doha Round of trade talks might be forgiven for thinking that trade politics has become a sideshow in the international political economy. Even as the multilateral negotiations have gone through multiple deadlocks, the world has experienced a flurry of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) of various shapes and sizes. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) currently lists over 200 such agreements as being in force (WTO 2013). This broader trend towards seeking discriminatory trade deals has also meant that the agenda of ‘behind-the-border’ liberalisation — agreement on issues such as the regulation of trade in services, government procurement and intellectual property rights — has grown in prominence; ‘deep’ liberalisation is easier to negotiate between preferred partners.
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