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EU Trade Policy: What will the EU's tougher stance on trade mean for businesses?

(S,P) The EU is stepping up its efforts to ensure that its agreements deliver the negotiated benefits for its workers, farmers and citizens. Will it work?

The EU's new trade policy is tougher and more assertive when it comes to implementation and enforcement of its trade agreements, fighting unfair trade and addressing sustainability concerns.

Why change the new trade policy now?

The EU needs a new trade strategy to address the challenges we face:

  • the economic recovery,

  • climate change and

  • environmental degradation,

  • growing international tensions,

  • greater recourse to unilateralism,

  • and its consequences for multilateral institutions.

The new strategy will therefore further integrate EU trade policy within the bloc's economic priorities as reflected in the Green Deal and the European Digital strategy, specify trade policy's role in the post-COVID economic recovery and support the pursuit of the EU's geopolitical ambitions.

As such, it will show how trade policy supports the EU's open strategic autonomy.

What are the key objectives?

  1. Reforming the WTO;

  2. Supporting the green transition and promoting responsible and sustainable value chains;

  3. Promoting the digital transition and trade in services;

  4. Strengthening the EU's regulatory impact;

  5. Deepening the EU's partnerships with neighbouring, enlargement countries and Africa;

  6. Reinforcing the EU's focus on implementing and enforcing trade agreements, and ensuring a level playing field for EU businesses.

Why does this matter?

  • The EU is the largest trading bloc in the world, with a population of 440 million and 16% of global trade.

  • International trade and investment are the backbone of its economy.

  • Total EU trade (imports and exports) accounts for more than a third of the EU’s output, with exports supporting 1 in 7 jobs across the 27-country bloc

  • The EU trades almost €16 billion worth of goods and services every day and is the world’s biggest single market in terms of total spending power, ahead of the US and China.

  • EU firms’ exports of goods and services to countries outside the EU support millions of jobs.

  • The EU’s trade agreements make it easier and cheaper for firms to export and import.

  • The EU helps small and medium-sized businesses in particular with practical information about exporting and importing. EU business, workers and consumers have benefitted enormously from the EU’s integration in an open rules-based trading system.

  • And this is why the Trade Policy Review strongly re-affirms the EU’s commitment to open global trade and resilient supply chains.

What does a more assertive approach in defending EU rights and values mean for businesses?

While favouring cooperation wherever possible, the EU will not shy away from enforcing its rights and defending its values more assertively and - where needed - autonomously. The EU will develop tools to confront new challenges and protect European companies and citizens from unfair trade practices, both internally and externally.


  • Make full use of the Chief Trade Enforcement Officer's (CTEO) role to maximise the benefits of negotiated outcomes for companies, in particular SMEs and farmers, and to eliminate hurdles that impair the potential of the agreements to deliver, including on sustainable development;

  • Develop new online tools to support EU businesses, in particular SMEs;

  • Strengthen the EU's tools to protect European companies and citizens from unfair trade practices, including via the preparation of an anti-coercion instrument;

  • Explore options for an EU strategy for export credits. A common strategy would improve coordination between different EU-level external financing instruments, in order to better support EU policy priorities such as tackling climate change and helping EU firms to better compete in the world.


The new EU trade policy

A new EU Trade Policy 2021
Download PDF • 1.07MB

Download the annex from the EU Trade Policy

A new EU Trade Policy 2021 ANNEX
Download PDF • 517KB


Download • 48KB

How SME's are affected by the EU policy

A new EU Trade Policy 2021 SME
Download PDF • 1.30MB

About the new open, assertive EU policy factsheet

A new Trade Policy 2021
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