Trade and geopolitics: Where is European Union trade policy headed?

Publication date:
Ignacio García Bercero and Iciar Chávarri Ureta, Directorate-General for Trade, European Commission

Trade is a fundamental part of the European Union (EU) economy. Indeed, the list of the EU’s aims in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union includes contributing to free and fair trade and to sustainable European and global development. 

In recent decades, the European Union has been one of the main beneficiaries of an interconnected global economy in which the international trade in goods and services represents 43% of gross domestic product (GDP), while the value of foreign direct investment in the European Union makes up 40% of GDP. Trade is also essential for employment in the EU. Before the COVID-19 crisis, 36 million jobs depended directly or indirectly on exports to the rest of the world, and another 16 million on foreign investment.

Trade policy is one of the EU’s exclusive competences and is constantly evolving as its priorities change. In particular, it adapts to the principles and goals of EU external action.

This chapter aims to analyse the reasons why the European Commission has considered it necessary to carry out a strategic review of its trade policy. Before proceeding to this analysis, we will begin by briefly reviewing the evolution of the European Union’s trade policy over the last 15 years.