At the 2016 International Studies Association (ISA) conference, I presented a paper arguing that the EU’s peace-through-trade policy failed in the cases of Iraq, Iran and Libya as it did not take into account the context in which it was being implemented, i.e. the barriers to peace. The paper draws from the theoretical argument concerned with the EU’s liberal idea of increased interaction leading to influence, something I articulated in a previous Defence-in-Depth post titled The EU: A Model For Economic Governance? This is an idea which I have been thinking and writing about (for the case of Iraq and Iran), and one which I am continuing to test in different case studies, hence the inclusion of Libya in my ISA conference paper.

The argument isn’t particularly sophisticated, indeed it is one which is often levied against liberally-inclined foreign policies. The novelty however lies in the contribution to the theoretical and policy targeted debates. I argue that the liberal theory-based EU policy of using economic ties (increasing trade in this instance) with an actor in order to achieve political goals (i.e. peace), is not being implemented in the manner in which the theory espouses. Indeed, the theory delineates that the economic ties can act as a carrot to induce an environment where peace can be achieved. For this to be true, the policy must be adopted in an absolute sense, i.e. for trade to be carried out when a country is at peace and NOT when it is in a state of conflict. However, the EU does not implement it’s foreign policy in this manner. It merely freezes trade agreements, transactions, updates and in some cases, renewals, in times of conflict. The result, in the case if Iraq, Iran and Libya was a continuing level of EU trade with the three states whilst they were embroiled in conflict (at different levels).

As a result, I argued in my paper (and my book), that the EU is not adopting it’s peace-through-trade policy in a manner which satisfies the theoretical assumptions upon which it is based. The line of argument continues to denote that the policy can therefore not be implemented in an ‘accurate’ way (in a theoretical sense), and thus undermining the fundamentals of the policy all together.

I therefore contend, that if the EU is truly dedicated to it’s self proclaimed peace-through-trade policy, then it must either adopt the policy in an absolute manner (as the theory dictates) or account for the different barriers to the policy succeeding by other means. Alternatively, the EU could go the other way and remove it’s peace-through-trade rhetoric and policy altogether.

Image: Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; Vice-President of the European Commission, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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