NGOs and Global Trade: Non-state voices in EU trade policymaking, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

NGOs and Global Trade

Non-state voices in EU trade policymaking, 1st Edition

By Erin Hannah


156 pages | 3 B/W Illus.

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In a deeply iniquitous world, where the gains from trade are distributed unevenly and where trade rules often militate against progressive social values, human health, and sustainable development, NGOs are widely touted as our best hope for redressing these conditions. As a critical voice of the poor and marginalized, many are engaged in a global struggle for democratic norms and social justice. Yet the potential for NGOs to bring about meaningful change is limited. This book examines whether improvements in participatory opportunities for progressive NGOs results in substantive and normative policy change in one of the major trading powers, the European Union.

Hannah advances a constructivist account of the role of NGOs in the EU’s trade policymaking process. She argues that NGOs have been instrumental in providing education, raising awareness, and giving a voice to broader societal concerns about proposed trade deals, both when they take advantage of formal participatory opportunities and when they protest from the streets and in the media. However, the book also highlights how NGO inputs are mediated by the social structure of global trade governance. Epistemes—the background knowledge, ideological and normative beliefs, and shared assumptions about how the world works—determine who has a voice in global trade governance.

Showing how NGOs succeed only when their advocacy conforms broadly to the dominant episteme, this book will be of value to scholars and students with an interest in NGOs and international trade negotiations. It will also be of interest to policymakers, national trade negotiators, government departments, and the trade policy community.


This is an outstanding book, one of the clearest analyses of NGOs trying to influence the current world of multilevel governance. It is must reading for any student of the global trade system, the EU, and global governance in general.' - Craig Murphy, Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance, The University of Massachusetts Boston, USA

‘Erin Hannah sheds much light on the complex role of non-governmental organizations in promoting progressive policies across integrating markets. Based on extensive research inside contemporary Europe, her accessible analysis highlights the limits of the most ambitious advocacy strategies. Pushing those limits remains possible, but success depends upon subtlety, persistence, and patience. NGO leaders, and anyone interested in their important work, should read this splendid book.’ - Louis W. Pauly, Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto, Canada

'This important book reaches a dismal conclusion – wildly successful NGO campaigning in the EU has only marginally impacted on trade policy. But, it is not a counsel of despair – potential routes out of this global epistemic logjam are identified and elaborated. Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the contemporary limits to NGO campaigning.' - David Hulme, Professor of Development Studies, University of Manchester, UK

'NGOs and Global Trade powerfully challenges assumptions that 'civil society' always paves the way to a more equitable global economy. Yet out of this sobering analysis also come pointers for more progressive trade politics in the future.' - Jan Aart Scholte, Professor in the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1. Contesting cosmopolitan Europe 2. The evolution of EU trade politics—agency, competency, and decision-making processes 3. Prescription for influence? NGOs and the EU’s TRIPS and access to medicines negotiations 4. Too thirsty to keep fighting? NGOs and the EU’s quest for water services liberalization 5. Where to from here?

About the Author

Erin Hannah is Associate Professor of Political Science at King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She is an international political economist specializing in global governance, trade, sustainable development, poverty and inequality, global civil society, and European Union trade politics. She has published articles in Journal of International Economic Law, Journal of Civil Society, Journal of World Trade, Politics, and Third World Quarterly. She is co-editor (with James Scott and Silke Trommer) of the book Expert Knowledge in Global Trade (Abingdon, Routledge, 2015).

About the Series

Global Institutions

The "Global Institutions Series" is edited by Thomas G. Weiss (The CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA) and Rorden Wilkinson (University of Sussex, UK).

The Series has two "streams" identified by their covers:

  • Blue covers offer comprehensive, accessible, and informative guides to the history, structure, and activities of key international organizations, and introductions to topics of key importance in contemporary global governance. Recognized experts use a similar structure to address the general purpose and rationale for specific organizations along with historical developments, membership, structure, decision-making procedures, key functions, and an annotated bibliography and guide to electronic sources.
  • Red covers consist of research monographs and edited collections that advance knowledge about one aspect of global governance; they reflect a wide variety of intellectual orientations, theoretical persuasions, and methodological approaches.

Together these streams provide a coherent and complementary portrait of the problems, prospects, and possibilities confronting global institutions today.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / Treaties
POLITICAL SCIENCE / NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations)