Leveraging trade policy for the EU’s strategic autonomy

European Strategic Autonomy series - Economy & Trade

Policy Brief


In a context of increasing weaponisation of interdependence – highlighted by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – Europeans must actively reduce their critical dependencies. The objective of strategic autonomy for the EU is becoming pressing to prevent supply disruptions and ensure the resilience of value chains. While strengthening European production capacities for certain essential goods, this objective of strategic autonomy calls for a shift of European trade policy, which should now be leveraged to secure access to essential inputs when foreign markets are closed.

A major turning point has already been reached with the new European level playing field agenda, which is progressively equipping the EU with autonomous defence tools to protect the interests of its businesses. But EU member states are slow to agree on the challenge posed by China, the level of dependence on the Chinese market they are prepared to accept, and the role the EU should play in the context of the US-China decoupling.

They also need to bridge the gap between the political rhetoric of reducing European strategic dependencies and the decisions of private companies that have no mandate to secure European supply.  Supporting companies’ efforts to diversify their supply calls for the EU notably to coordinate more closely with companies to increase collective intelligence on strategic dependencies. It also calls for the EU to promote European standards more actively, to initiate new bilateral negotiations for access to strategic raw materials, and to support an international effort to limit export restrictions.

Fondation Jean-Jaurès
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
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