Call for Papers: Dissonance in the Narrative of the EU’s Value-Based International Trade

EU Values in International Trade

The research project, ‘the EU’s value-based international trade’, within the Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe’s (RENFORCE) invites submissions for the workshop on gaps and dissonance in the narrative of the EU’s value-based international trade law and policy. The whole-day workshop takes place on Thursday 18 June 2020 at Utrecht University.


In recent years we have witnessed an intense debate concerning EU external trade and investment policy. At the same time, the world trading system is confronted with contestation at an unprecedented scale. It does not come as a surprise that the EU aims to promote its own economic interest and achieve favorable economic results by means of its international trade policy. In words of the European Commission, trade policy “must deliver growth, jobs, investment and innovation while seeking to improve conditions for citizens, consumers, workers and self-employed, small, medium and large enterprises, and the poorest in developing countries.”1 At the same time, the EU also claims that a successful trade policy does not require it to compromise its core principles such as the rule of law, human rights and sustainable development around the world.2  What is more, the EU situates itself as an actor to promote its non-economic values at the global level through its trade policy. Clearly, unilateral action and bilateral trade agreements offer the EU more efficient ways to promote, at least ostensibly, its non-economic objectives and values than multilateral forums of cooperation.  

Various frictions arise, however, in the processes of achieving economic goals and promoting non-economic values which are enshrined in article 21 TEU. The level and nature of these tensions vary. The interpretation of values and objectives are context-dependent and they are given different meanings, depending on the actors involved in the formulation and implementation of the EU’s trade and investment policy.3 Dissonance, inconsistencies, and gaps in the EU’s external trade law and policy are well-known. Yet critical scrutiny may need to be applied to situations when the EU and its trading partners provide very different narratives, tailored to the expectations of their own constituencies, about the internal and external effects of EU external trade actions (e.g. free trade agreements) on some of the principles and values that the EU is expected to uphold. For instance, in the context of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, the parties have taken steps, in tandem with the negotiation of the Agreement, to ensure that Japan would obtain the adequacy decision on data transfer under the GDPR. While the EU formally takes the position that data protection is not subject to negotiation, different narrative has been provided by Japan to its own constituencies.  

The Workshop Theme

The workshop explores the instances of dissonance and discrepancies in the narrative of the EU’s value-based agenda in the field of external trade. We particularly welcome (but not limit) papers that address one or more of the following issues through the analyses of specific instances, examples, and/or empirical data:  

  • Political and legal contexts in which the EU and its trade partners are situated and which may account for the dissonance in the trade policy narrative;
  • Dissonance between the EU and its trade partners with regard to the interpretation and implementation / enforcement of sustainable development and/or environmental protection goals embedded in free trade agreements;
  • In a similar vein, gaps between the EU on the one hand, and the EU’s trading partners on the other hand, with regard to the interpretation and implementation of fundamental rights, including data protection, embedded in trade agreements;
  • The effects of dissonance in the trade policy narrative by the EU and its trading partners on the consistency and legitimacy of EU trade policy. 

Submission of Proposals and the Timeline 

Paper proposals should include a description of maximum 500 words and a brief biographical note of the author(s).

The proposal should be submitted by 20 March 2020 and include:  

  • Title of the paper  
  • Research question
  • Methodology
  • Expected findings  

Submissions should cover novel work that has not been published. The proposals should be submitted to Dr. Urszula Jaremba ( and Dr. Machiko Kanetake (

At the workshop, the invited authors should present a paper of 5,000-6,000 words, excluding references. It is the final objective of the workshop to have the submitted papers published in a special journal edition in 2021. Selected participants will be informed by 31 March 2020. Each participant must submit a complete paper by 4 June 2020 for distribution to the other participants. The limited amount of funds is available to cover the invited speakers’ travelling expense and accommodation for the sake of the workshop. 

For substantive questions, please contact: Dr. Urszula Jaremba or Dr. Machiko Kanetake.