This research is aimed at analyzing the role of the European Union in the international relations in respect of critical raw materials. This role may be envisioned either as the one of an institution or as the one of a global actor. Two theoretical approaches, the liberal intergovernmentalism and the structure-agency, were considered to address the question. These theories have been integrated into a broader framework of analysis that focuses on the factors that shape economic diplomacy and the role of the European Union. These two distinct approaches were compared, and their respective explanatory powers was analyzed by using a congruence analysis. The European raw materials diplomacy, which was developed through the raw materials initiative in 2008, was taken as a case study. The outcome of this research shows that the European Union holds the role of a global actor. The analyses performed also indicate that the structure-agency theoretical approach is best suited to assess this role in the sector of raw materials. Whereas the outcome of this research cannot be generally extended to all sectors of trade, the model designed for this specific study may, however, be reproduced to address different areas of trade.