A new Agenda for Trade and Investment

Fostering Europe’s Strategic Autonomy

With a view to growing protectionism and geo-economic competition, compounded by economic recession and geopolitical tensions following the COVID-19 crisis, the EU should foster its capacity to act more strategically and more autonomously. Fostering strategic autonomy is essential to advancing Europe’s interests and reinforcing European sovereignty. As part of this effort, the EU should make more active use of its trade and investment policies. That requires bracing for trade shocks and unfair trade practices, empowering Europe by leveraging its Single Market, and engaging internationally to uphold rules-based trade and a stable international order.

This paper argues that in fostering strategic autonomy the EU should, first, strengthen and modernise its trade defence instruments while ensuring the viability of the temporary appeal arrangement set up to cope with the blockage of the WTO Appellate Body. Second, the EU should ensure a level playing field for all companies within the Single Market, ensure reciprocity in market access, screen FDIs more strategically at the EU level, and better enforce its free trade agreements – including sustainability. Finally, the EU should continue to engage internationally, modernise its networks of FTAs, and re-centre its trade policy around fewer top priorities. In short, strategic autonomy should not lead to disengagement and isolation, rather it should be about building a stronger position for cooperation and partnership.

Trade and investment policies are only one of the several tools that should be mobilised at the EU level to face competition and promote cooperation in a post-COVID world. Ultimately, Europe’s strategic autonomy agenda calls for a much broader approach, including industrial policies, technology and innovation, and security and defence. These are the main building blocks of a sovereign Europe – one that can shape its future.

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Johanna Fleger

Johanna Fleger bild


johanna.fleger@kas.de +32 2 66931-54 +32 2 66931-62