The European Union’s international trade policy has gone through a major change in the twenty-first century. Before 1990 trade policy was used for foreign policy purposes (to favour preferred partners) and in response to domestic policy pressures (to support framers and other producers facing import competition). After 1990 the EU leaders made the decision that these motives were less important than the need to support the establishment of the WTO. With its 2015 Trade for All Strategy the EU explicitly positioned itself as open to international trade and a willing partner in global value chains. This position was supported by negotiating deep trade agreements with Korea, Canada and Japan. In 2017, in the face of an unpredictable and more protectionist USA, the EU emerged as a leader of like-minded supporters of the multilateral trading system. This lecture will explore the implications of this transformation and the future prospects for the EU’s international trade policy.
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