Agents as Information Asymmetry Managers in EU Trade Policy-Making

Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics book series (PSEUP)


The chapter explores the role of the European Commission as a manager of information asymmetry in the context of EU external trade policy. It illustrates that under conditions of incomplete contracting and interdependence, the Commission-as-agent has incentives to proactively reduce information asymmetry vis-à-vis the Council-as-principal. To do so, the Commission has devised specific communication structures known in the EU jargon as “informal technical meetings” (ITMs). The existence of ITMs in EU external trade negotiations—a classic example of principal–agent relations—illustrates that there is room in the principal–agent model for rectifying the anti-agent bias and the single-minded focus on goal conflict. The chapter introduces the concept of “controlled indiscretion” as a way in which principal–agent scholars can address these prevalent biases in the principal–agent model.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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