Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

Today, the Commission is pleased to set a new course for European trade policy.

This Communication will be our key reference point for the coming years.

Europe is rethinking the role of trade, and trade policy, in a world characterised by more geopolitical conflict and economic upheaval.

Let me say three key words that define this strategy: Open. Sustainable. Assertive.

It is around these three concepts that we want to build a new consensus.

We reached out to EU governments, the European Parliament, businesses, civil society and citizens.

What we found is a clear expectation that trade policy should serve our people and our values, as well as supporting growth and job creation.

We need to strengthen Europe’s focus on multilateralism. We want a global rulebook that is up-to-date, fair and sustainable.

We need a trade policy that supports Europe’s wider ambitions.

We aim to transform our economy to achieve climate neutrality and boost our competitiveness in a well-regulated digital market. 

Our strategy must support our workers and businesses, and it will shore up our defences against unfair trade practices.

Economic Recovery

We need open trade more than ever to support our recovery from Covid-19.

Already, 35 million EU jobs depend on trade.

And they are high-quality jobs: competitive gains from global trade have increased wages by 12%.

We believe there is potential to build on this strong foundation. But to do so, we have to look outside our borders.

This is economic reality: 85% of global growth will take place outside Europe in the next decade.

So, even if the current crisis feeds the temptation to look inward, this is not the answer.

The EU has a substantial trade surplus, and by turning inward, we will only make our economic outlook worse.

The right answer to ensure Europe’s prosperity is to keep trading with our global partners.

We have a strong network of trade agreements to help us: 46 deals with 78 partners.

Therefore, while we aim to ratify agreements and complete ongoing negotiations, we will put a much stronger focus on extracting maximum value from existing deals.

This will help our companies, in particular our SMEs, to find new opportunities, and speed up their recovery. We must not forget that 2 out of 3 jobs in Europe are provided by SMEs.


But for global trade to work, it must be underpinned by proper global rules.

The World Trade Organisation has for decades provided the stability that is necessary for trade to expand, allowing countries to develop by integrating into the global economy.

But the global rulebook is outdated. It no longer guarantees a level playing field. It does not respond to the sustainability and digital challenges.

Accordingly, we have published a detailed EU agenda for reform of the WTO.

Of course, it is only by developing a strong coalition with our partners that we will succeed.

With a new administration in Washington, and with the confirmation of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as new WTO Director-General, we believe we can create new momentum for positive change.

WTO reform should concern all of its three core functions:

  • Negotiation;
  • monitoring and deliberation; and
  • dispute settlement, including a functioning Appellate Body.

Fair, Green & Digital Trade

Trade policy must play its full role in the green and digital transformation of the EU and global economy.

Our Communication outlines ways that trade can support sustainability, including:

  • A trade and climate initiative at the WTO;
  • Seeking agreement on climate neutrality in our trade and investment deals with G20 countries; and
  • Making full use of our trade deals to accelerate cooperation on climate action, biodiversity, and sustainable food systems.

Future deals will include Paris climate commitments as an essential element.

Promoting sustainable trade also means stepping up our support for labour rights, through the development of due diligence legislation, including determined action to combat forced labour.

Meanwhile, to drive our digital transformation, the EU must play a central role in creating the right rules for digital trade, both at WTO level and working closely with key partners, notably the U.S.

We have made a proposal for a Trade and Technology Council, centred on transatlantic leadership.

Our strategy avoids digital protectionism.

In this regard, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement we concluded with the UK points the way forward. It is the first EU deal containing ambitious rules on data flows, while ensuring that our high privacy standards and the GDPR are fully protected.

Global Relationships

The strength of our global relationships will be critical for achieving our wider goals.

We already proposed a fresh transatlantic agenda to pave the way for a reset with the Biden administration.

We want to rapidly resolve our trade disputes and restore EU-U.S. leadership as the engine of positive global change.

This work can proceed on parallel tracks, if required. We can work at bilateral level to resolve trade irritants while advancing fast on multilateral reforms.

The bottom line is simple: whatever challenges the EU and U.S. face, there is no stronger values-based alliance in the world.

On China, the EU goal is to restructure our partnership to be reciprocal, balanced and fair.

Our recent investment agreement demonstrates our readiness to level the playing field, not least for EU companies in China.  

While the CAI can address many issues, it is not a panacea to deal with all the challenges presented by China. We will work closely with like-minded partners, including the U.S. on issues of concern like human rights and forced labour.

Closer to home, we will step up our engagement with our neighbourhood region and Africa.

These countries are geographically close, with strong economic and cultural ties to Europe.

Moreover, they have long-term strategic and economic growth prospects. We will therefore build closer trade and investment partnerships with them, for our mutual benefit.

We do not forget our commitment to other parts of the world, particularly the burgeoning Asia-Pacific region, the source of so much future global growth.  We reaffirm our commitment to conclude a series of FTAs with partners in the region, notably with Australia and New Zealand.

And we continue to advance our work in Central and Latin America, where we are working towards ratification of deals with Mercosur and Mexico. We are also committed to conclude an agreement with Chile.

Enforcement & Defence

The EU will be more assertive in pursuing our interests and protecting ourselves from unfair trade practices.

Europe plays by the rules, and, where necessary, we will be proactive in upgrading the rules.

Our WTO reform plan will address issues such as competitive neutrality, subsidies and state-owned enterprises.

But we also need to strengthen our own capacity to level the playing field, and defend ourselves when our partners do not play by the rules.

This will include preparing an anti-coercion instrument and exploring options for an EU strategy for export credits.

We are also doing more on implementation and enforcement. European businesses and workers need to benefit from the agreements we have negotiated.

We will develop new tools to support traders, particularly SMEs.

And we must ensure that our partners respect their commitments, both on market access and on environment and labour rights.

Already last year, we appointed the first Chief Trade Enforcement Officer and upgraded the EU enforcement regulation.

This shows our willingness to take a tougher approach. We will follow through.

We are also conducting a review of our action plan to make the implementation and enforcement of trade and sustainable development chapters more effective.

The results of this review will help to determine our next steps.


To conclude, ladies and gentlemen, this Communication represents a distinct European approach that we call “Open Strategic Autonomy”.

We believe a new consensus on trade policy is necessary, both within the EU and at global level.

This Communication is a strong basis for us to engage with our partners in building that consensus. Thank you very much.