Project description:

The RESPECT project was funded by the European Commission under HORIZON 2020 for the period 2018-2021. The project comprised a consortium of 10 institutions.

Seismic changes in global geopolitics, increasing contestation of trade integration initiatives with third countries, and challenges to ensuring coherence across external policy initiatives at EU and Member State level are making the pursuit of EU external policy objectives more complex. The overarching goal of the RESPECT project was to identify options and opportunities for better realising the EU’s soft power in achieving the external policy goals set by the Lisbon Treaty and the EU’s trade and development strategy. The project was multidisciplinary in nature, centered around analysis of the relationships between trade, trade policy and non-trade policy objectives (NTPOs) pertaining to labour standards, political and civil rights, and protection of the environment.

Research under RESPECT pursued four broad objectives:

  1. Documenting the prevailing situation – the set of EU and Member States’ policies that together characterise the EU’s trade and investment-related policy regime;
  2. Improving the understanding of the inter-relationships between EU external policies and those of EU member states;
  3. Determining success factors for effective EU external policies; and
  4. Developing practical and operationally feasible recommendations to promote better EU external policy objectives.

The project focused primarily on EU trade-related policies, broadly defined to include trade agreements as well as development assistance and economic diplomacy activities of Member States in and towards partner countries. The project also included a focus on economic cooperation and policy dialogue the world’s two largest economic actors, China and the United States, and EU engagement in the G20 and the WTO. The project included expert surveys and consultations with practitioners in both the EU and partner countries.

The project generated numerous papers and reports, as well as several datasets. Outputs and findings were disseminated through working papers, academic publications, policy briefs, VoxEU columns and e-books. All of these can be found on this website.

Main outputs

RESPECT explained by Bernard Hoekman, project coordinator:

Project details:
  • Title: RESPECT (Realising Europe’s Soft Power in External Cooperation and Trade)
  • Start date: January 2018
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Project number: 770680
  • Topic: The strategic potential of EU external trade policy

European Union; EU institutions; European neighbourhood; soft power; common commercial policy; foreign policy, policy coherence, trade agreements; trade preferences; economic diplomacy; development assistance, governance; regulation; aid for trade, foreign direct investment, sustainable development; labour standards; human rights; conditionality; sanctions; China, United States, Russia, developing countries.


Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.