In the literature examining European Union external trade policy, the relative influence of the Commission, the member states and interest groups are an issue of ongoing debate. This article will argue that member states can still play an important role and that a focus on member state preferences is therefore crucial in understanding European external trade policy in general. An interest-based explanation of state preferences is proposed in which both material (political and economic) and ideational variables are included, whereas material explanations alone dominate the current research in the trade policy field. An in-depth case study of German preference formation and position taking with regard to the agricultural chapter of the GATT Uruguay Round (1986-1993) shows the interplay between material and ideational interest. As well as German preference formation being guided by Germany’s trade interests and political interests (particularly when these interests were united and governmental sensitivity was high), considerations concerning the Franco-German friendship, affecting Germany’s ideational interest, also proved to be a constant in the preference-formation process.
Germany, European trade policy, GATT Uruguay Round, Agriculture
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