This special issue on the social dimension of European Union (EU) external trade relations analyses the commitment, capacity, and consequences of the EU as a global social power. In other words, is the EU committed to social principles? Does it have the capacity to engage in persuasive actions? And what are the consequences of its socialising impact in promoting the social dimension of globalisation through trade? These are all difficult questions to ask of any actor in global politics, let alone a hybrid polity such as the EU. The special issue also addressed two tensions at the heart of the EU's social dimension in trade relations - human rights versus welfare concerns and exclusive competence versus lack of competence. These questions and tensions are rendered more methodologically problematic by the existence and activities of other actors and trading powers, such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as the United States and China, for example. The rest of the article will provide refl ections on the ideas raised in the special issue from a normative power perspective in six sections. First, it will elaborate on the role of labour rights as human rights in the EU's external action from a normative power perspective. Next, the article will use the tripartite analytical framework to examine the principles, actions, and impact of the social dimension in EU trade policies found in the contributions to this special issue. Then the article will ask how the EU initiatives in this area could increase the legitimacy of the ‘trade and social linkage' in international politics and economics from a normative power perspective. Finally, the article concludes by suggesting a more holistic approach to the promotion of the social dimension of globalisation.
European Foreign Affairs Review, 2009, Vol 14, Issue 5
European Union; social dimension; trade policies; globalization; normative power