ABSTRACT

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP 2014), “by increasing GDP and creating new income and employment generation opportunities particularly for vulnerable communities, international trade can promote human development”. This pro-poor outcome is especially evident for low- and middle-income countries that mainly export labour-intensive goods and services. The EU is the biggest trader in the world, and accounts for 16.5% of global imports and exports (EU 2017) and a key player in the WTO. It is also the largest world donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA), which makes it a major global economic governance shaper. Consistently with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) goals, official documents of European institutions state that, by promoting Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs), the EU aims at both fostering growth in Europe (European Commission 2006) and contributing to development cooperation (European Commission 2012, 2015). The European Commission (2012) measures the development effects of trade on low- and middle-income countries in terms of “improvement on human development indicators”. According to Khorana and Garcia (2013), Lavenex (2014), Feliu and Serra (2015) and Heron (2016), this approach to trade policy confirms the role of the EU as a normative power (Manners 2002), namely a power committed to promoting norms internationally, with the purpose of contributing to “sustainable global economics” and a “more just human development” (Manners 2009a: 23). Others (Heron 2011; Siles Brügge, 2014a, 2014b; Taylor 2016; Hoang and Sicurelli 2017; McKenzie and Meissner 2017), instead, have highlighted a lack of coherence between the self-proclaimed objectives of its trade policy and its actual content.