State-Society Relations in European Trade Policy: The Civil Society Dialogue of the European Commission
The actions of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) concerned with such issues as development, human rights, and the protection of the environment voicing concerns to public authorities raises the question: Do these newly mobilised societal actors influence EU trade policy outcomes? We answer in the negative, arguing that such groups, which have diffuse costs and benefits from trade policies, do not dispose of resources with which they can threaten or enhance political actors’ chances of re-election or re-appointment. A survey of NGOs and business groups as well as two in-depth case studies on the negotiations concerning the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements and the EU’s policy on access to medicines in developing countries support our reasoning. The analysis shows that although NGOs have gained access to policy-makers, they have largely failed to shift policy outcomes in their favour.