European Foreign Affairs Review vol:14 pages:629-641
The European Union (EU) is widely considered as a formidable trade power. It represents about one fourth of worldwide trade flows and generally speaks with one voice in its common commercial policies. In addition, policy-makers and scholars often regard the Union as a distinctive, 'normative power' in the world. From this perspective, Europe tries to be at the forefront of promoting values such as human rights, democracy, sustainable development, and social justice, this with a clear preference for supporting international dialogue and cooperation in these areas, rather than for using trade sanctions. This special issue combines both aspects of the EU's international role. More specifically, it concerns the social dimension of the EU's trade policies. It raises the questions of how, why, and with what impact the EU has promoted social objectives through its common commercial policies. These three questions will be addressed in this introduction, followed by a brief summary of the way in which the different contributions of this special issue deal with them.