This article introduces both a conceptual and an analytical framework of economic diplomacy so as to contribute to sounder understanding of economic diplomacy’s activities, tools and goals. While the state is not regarded as the only player, or as a coherent entity, it is assumed that the state is the primary actor in economic diplomacy. The conceptual framework discerns five strands of economic diplomacy, which involve tools and purposes that are relatively more commercial/economic or political in character and are thereby closer to the ‘business end’ or ‘power-play end’ of economic diplomacy. The analytical framework identifies four essential dimensions of economic diplomacy within which historically contingent change may occur: the context; tools; theatres; and processes. Interaction between these dimensions takes place in multiple ways. Building on the insights provided by these frameworks, the article analyses the foci, assumptions and methodologies of the research fields that are concerned with economic diplomacy, and discusses the strategic and ideological considerations that underpin it.