This new Clingendael Report assesses the EU’s strategy and practice on trade diplomacy, with a particular focus on relations with countries in East Asia. It argues that, without a radical rethink, the EU risks being side-lined from major geopolitical currents and thereby losing both economic and foreign policy opportunities to improve living standards and stability at home and away.
The '2009 Common Approach'
The EU’s trade diplomacy stands out for its formal, rather legalistic approach to linking economics and politics. This strategy is founded on the so-called ’2009 Common Approach’, which holds that a predefined set of political clauses must be included in political agreements with third countries, while also essentially reducing free-trade agreements to a subset of such political agreements.
Competitive multilateralism in the Asia-Pacific
This political straitjacket limits the EU’s ability to engage in a more flexible, strategic approach that is needed in the context of Asian competitive multilateralism. Considering the economic and strategic importance of the Asia–Pacific and the proliferation of trade diplomacy worldwide, the EU and its member states are well advised to rethink the short- and medium-term strategic consequences of their present-day trade diplomacy.
The EU in the Asian Century
The ’2009 Common Approach’ is nearing its ‘best by’ date and the EU can hardly afford to forego participation in trade diplomacy at the regional level any longer.