Flint has today published a report on how Europe can balance economic security and openness to trade. The report, titled ‘Strength in numbers: How can Europe most effectively balance economic security and openness to trade and investment?’, was commissioned by the UK Mission to the EU, as part of its Open Trade Project.
International trade and economic interdependence can be a catalyst for deeper political cooperation and engagement between countries. However, interdependence - or rather, overdependence - can also grant leverage to those governments seeking to impose their political will on others.
In this context, our report assesses three broad types of trade interventions: economic coercion, fair competition and strategic interventions. We identify both the direct and indirect consequences of trade interventions, as well as intended and unintended ones, and the suite of associated policy responses. Russia’s efforts to weaken Western support for Ukraine, China’s trade tensions with Lithuania and Australia and the EU’s Anti-Coercion Instrument are among the real-world examples we examine.
The report also makes several recommendations on how policymakers can best reconcile economic security and trade objectives, ranging from promoting better collaboration between business and government (unilateral), to encouraging strategic trade diversification through trade agreements (plurilateral), to promoting coordinated WTO action (multilateral).
We conclude that plurilateralism, or cooperation between smaller groupings of countries, offers a pragmatic middle way when compared with multilateralism and unilateralism. In the absence of global agreement, like-minded states can and should work together to coordinate their efforts to address economic security.