Why the excitement? Values, identities, and the politicization of EU trade policy with North America

Publication Title

Journal of European Public Policy

Document Type


Department or Program


Publication Date



GMOs, hormones, identities, politicization, trade, values


Until a few years ago, EU external trade initiatives attracted little attention. But matters have been different with TTIP with the United States and CETA with Canada. What can explain their politicization? Existing research emphasizing institutional changes occasioned by the 2007 Lisbon Treaty and broader postfunctionalist theories offer valuable but limited insights. Recent work on the regulatory content of trade deals offers an alternative perspective. This paper builds on that work by proposing an account rooted in economic sociology highlighting the possibility that agreements assert fundamental values and identities. Agreements can thus be symbolically, even existentially, charged, especially when they involve major countries or other trading blocs in the world. Politicization follows. The case of food with TTIP and CETA, two agreements that opponents considered connected and thus even more significant, illustrates this.


Original version is available from the publisher at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2019.1678056