During the nineties opposition against free trade stood strong as competition from low wage countries forced many European companies to adjust, relocate parts of their production or even close shop. Against this growing opposition, the European Commission launched its Market Access Strategy which focused on the identification of market barriers abroad. This article raises the question whether the formulated strategy was a deliberate move to shift the balance between protectionist and free trade interests within the European Union. The paper zooms in on the Market Access Advisory Committee as a key forum of socialization. This committee provides a setting where both trade experts from the member states as well as exporting companies can discuss market barriers in target countries. The paper draws on document research, interviews and an analysis of committee reports. Its findings contribute to the literature on political economy, bureaucratic politics and supranational activism.
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