The examination of EU competitiveness and trade policy in the comparative political economy of Sweden and Greece and its implications for exports of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

  • Konrad Sobczyk

Student thesis: Phd


Whilst the EU’s (European Union) competitiveness and trade policies i.e Lisbon Agenda/Europe 2020 and Global Europe (GE) respectively have received attention in the scholarly literature, they have often been considered as two rather separate policy agendas. For instance, by focusing solely on external dimensions of GE (i.e EU’s trade deals and trade performance of European firms) without interaction with its internal component (i.e member state’s competitiveness), or, by focusing on Lisbon/Europe 2020 competitiveness agenda without the context of free trade and implications of competitiveness for export performance of firms. Hence, there is a need for a study which integrates the competitiveness and trade dimensions by accounting for divergent domestic political-economic environments and capitalist models within EU member states which play an important role in the mediation of broader European policies. The thesis addresses this literature gap by providing an integrated discussion of domestic competitiveness dimensions specifically in the context of free trade. It analyses Sweden and Greece, which represent two countries from the opposing sides of the free trade-protectionism spectrum and the opposing positions (core vs periphery) within the European Single Market (ESM). This doctoral project embraces analysis specifically in relation to SMEs. The aim is to explore whether Swedish and Greek SMEs benefited from the execution of competitiveness policies (Lisbon Agenda/Europe 2020) at their domestic environments and as a result internationalized their operations (through GE’s free trade opportunities). This focus on SMEs is underpinned by the fact that GE is often perceived as a project that mainly enhances MNEs (Multinational Enterprises). The thesis investigates domestic competitiveness policies in the context of free trade, through three fundamental dimensions: 1) institutional structures of the Greek and Swedish variety of capitalism {i.e business environment, access to finance and tripartite/state-business relations} 2) government policy {trade, labour market and taxation} and 3) actions and behaviour of SMEs {i.e. survival and trade strategies of SMEs}. The project addresses the intellectual puzzle by building on inter-disciplinary academic literatures. These include International Political Economy (IPE) i.e Global Value Chains (GVCs) approach, International Business (IB) [particularly Institution-Based View (IBV) and Resource-Based View (RBV) to study internationalization of SMEs] as well as Comparative Capitalisms (CC) i.e Varieties of Capitalism (VoC) approach to study domestic competitiveness. Empirically, the thesis argues that conduciveness of the domestic setting (i.e domestic institutions, governmental policies and SME actions) towards competitiveness, shapes and impacts the export performance of SMEs. This means that possession of these competitiveness elements nationally is important to facilitate exports of SMEs. Using empirical case studies, the thesis illustrates that the Swedish domestic setting was significantly more conducive towards competitiveness than its Greek counterpart, with material gains for Swedish SMEs via better export performance compared to Greek SMEs. The key contribution of this thesis rest on its emphasis on how the domestic setting affect the SME export performance, here the thesis identifies the mechanisms through which this occurs and how these mechanisms interconnect (i.e interrelation between domestic institutions, governmental policy and SME actions). Through analysis of these mechanisms, the overarching sources of strength in the Swedish domestic setting and overarching sources of weakness in the Greek counterpart are identified in relation to divergent SME export performance. Theoretically, the main contribution of the thesis is the usage of inter-disciplinary synergy between the Comparative Capitalisms and International Business approaches, in order to examine the empirical
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSilke Trommer (Supervisor) & Dimitris Papadimitriou (Supervisor)


  • Public Policies
  • International Business
  • Political Economy
  • Global Value Chains
  • Sweden
  • Greece
  • Varieties of Capitalism
  • Resource Based View
  • Institution Based View
  • Competitiveness
  • Exports
  • Institutions
  • Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)
  • Home Country Settting

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