On Wednesday, 17 January 2024, we organised the webinar titled “EU Strategic Interdependence and How to Revitalise the WTO,” which addressed the concept of strategic interdependence and its relevance to the EU’s economic diplomacy and future engagement with the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The event was moderated by ECIPE Director Matthias Bauer and featured José Ignacio Torreblanca, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and Head of ECFR’s Madrid office. Unfortunately, Alan Wm. Wolff, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former Deputy Director General of the World Trade Organization, who had also been invited, couldn’t attend due to a last-minute emergency but was kind enough to provide us with a blog post that you can read here.
The event delved into a critique of the EU’s concept of strategic autonomy, highlighting its practical and conceptual flaws, particularly in terms of internal political divisions within the EU and debates around protectionism versus openness.
Questioning strategic autonomy aspirations, the idea of “strategic interdependence” was proposed as a more realistic framework, calling on the EU to build relationships with middle powers and promote a multilateral, rules-based international system.
Other key topics included the EU’s diminishing economic gravity, the need to balance economic independence with cooperative strategies, and the potential for the EU to shape global trade rules.
The discussion also touched upon the EU’s role in a bipolar world dominated by the US and China, emphasising the importance of avoiding strategies of decoupling and fostering interdependencies, especially in the context of digital and green economies.
“We think that strategic independence changes the conversation into the things we need to do and how to better relate with countries out there, not imposing our agendas or not projecting the view that we are just shielding from competition or that we just care about other countries to preserve our security and our safety, but not theirs and not taking into account their interests.”
José Ignacio Torreblanca (ECFR) on how the concept of strategic interdependence could improve plurilateral relations.
The seminar underscored the challenges of internal political divisions in the EU, the need for a strategic approach to maintaining influence in shaping global trade rules, and the importance of remaining competitive in a rapidly changing global trade and technological environment advocating for a cooperative approach that considers the interests of like-minded partner countries.
You can watch the full event below:
You can listen to the event in podcast format by clicking the button below:
You can read the blog written by Alan Wm. Wolff by clicking the button below: