Abstract: The article contributes to our understanding of how trade is politicized and how civil society activists manage the tensions between multiple collective action frames in a complex political context. When viewed alongside the Brexit referendum and Trump’s US Presidency, it is easy to see the 2013–2016 campaign against a European Union–US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as a further example of an apparently growing populist ‘nationalism.’ Yet, in the European context—where campaigning was most visible—there was in fact extensive reliance on, and re-iteration of, a transnational ‘European’ frame, with antecedents in the 1999–2006 campaign against General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations. As the article argues, transnational campaigning operates within a nexus of multiple, and sometimes conflicting, geographic frames. In both campaigns discussed here, activists typically engaged with the wider public via the national context and, sometimes, with allusions to ‘national autonomy.’ However, their activism was dependent upon a frame espousing ‘transnational solidarity.’ Developed over time, this structured their transnational relations with other groups and more full-time activists.
Keywords: civil society; General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS); local government; petitions; politicization; trade policy; Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)