Social movement organisations (SMOs) have been given considerable prominence in the literature on the recent politicisation of European Union trade policy.
But little has been written regarding the importance of the local level in SMOs’ campaign strategy over time. This has involved pushing thousands of local governments (especially in Western Europe) to pass motions critical of trade and investment agreements, with the practice dating back to the late 1990s. How should we account for this local politicisation of trade policy across time, where SMOs have invested considerable resources in lobbying governmental actors with no formal say in trade negotiations? The paper focuses on two (overlapping) dynamics: firstly, a drive by SMOs to ‘socialise’ local publics and governmental actors about the effects of trade policy (to develop their organisations’ grassroots over time) and, secondly, ‘governmental activism’ (Verhoeven and Duyvendak 2017) – where local governments form alliances with SMOs to contest central government policy (including to achieve non-trade political ends).
Gabriel Siles-Brügge is Associate Professor in Public Policy at the University of Warwick. His current research focuses on the municipal-level contestation of trade and investment agreements, the role of emotion in trade and investment policy and the political economy of Brexit. He is the author of Constructing European Union Trade Policy (2014, Palgrave Macmillan) and co-author (with Ferdi De Ville) of TTIP: The Truth about Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (2016, Polity). He is a Scientific Advisor on trade and investment policy to the European Public Health Alliance, representing the organization as an alternate member of the European Commission’s ‘Expert group on Trade Agreements’. He was a Parliamentary Academic Fellow with the UK House of Commons International Trade Committee from 2017–19. He tweets under @GabrielSilesB.
Dr Johann Robert Basedow is Assistant Professor in International Political Economy at the LSE European Institute.