Policy brief

The European Union’s response to the trade crisis

The global trading system is under attack on various fronts. In this Policy Contribution, the authors examine the root causes of the current problems,

Publishing date
14 March 2019

The global trading system, a source of prosperity, is under attack on various fronts. The causes run deep and require a strategic response from the European Union and from the main trading nations. The future of the system hinges on the answer to three questions, and the scenarios associated with them:

  • Can the World Trade Organisation be reformed?
  • Is the United States’ scepticism about the system a new normal?
  • Can China undertake reforms that would make its system more compatible with the WTO?

The possible outcomes for the global trading system could be good or bad, depending on how each of these issues is resolved. Under a good set of scenarios, the EU should persist on its current course with some significant adjustments. We call this Plan A, which would aim to preserve the multilateral trading system. Under a bad set of scenarios, the EU will have to contend with a possible break-up of the multilateral trading system, requiring the formulation of a Plan B. The EU needs today to put in place its Plan B, not only to prepare for a far less favourable trading environment, but also to clarify the trade-offs implicit under Plan A. All major trading nations must recognise that the alternative to making compromises is not the status quo, but something much worse.

About the authors

  • Guntram B. Wolff

    Guntram Wolff was the Director of Bruegel. Over his career, he has contributed to research on European political economy and governance, fiscal, monetary and financial policy, climate change and geoeconomics. Under his leadership, Bruegel has been regularly ranked among the top global think tanks and has grown in influence and impact with a team of now almost 40 recognized scholars and around 65 total staff. Bruegel is also recognized for its outstanding transparency.

    A recognized thought leader and academic, he regularly testifies at the European Finance Ministers' ECOFIN meeting, the European Parliament, the German Parliament (Bundestag) and the French Parliament (Assemblée Nationale). From 2012-16, he was a member of the French prime minister's Conseil d'Analyse Economique. In 2018, then IMF managing director Christine Lagarde appointed him to the external advisory group on surveillance to review the Fund’s priorities. In 2021, he was appointed to the G20 high level independent panel on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. He is also a professor (part-time) at the Solvay Brussels School of Université Libre de Bruxelles, where he teaches economics of European integration.

    He joined Bruegel from the European Commission, where he worked on the macroeconomics of the euro area and the reform of euro area governance. Prior to joining the Commission, he was coordinating the research team on fiscal policy at Deutsche Bundesbank. He also worked as an external adviser to the International Monetary Fund.

    He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Bonn and studied in Bonn, Toulouse, Pittsburgh and Passau. He taught economics at the University of Pittsburgh and at Université libre de Bruxelles. He has published numerous papers in leading academic journals. His columns and policy work are published and cited in leading international media and policy outlets. Guntram is fluent in German, English, French and has good notions of Bulgarian and Spanish.

  • Uri Dadush

    Uri Dadush is a Non-Resident Fellow at Bruegel, based in Washington, DC and a Research Professor at the University of Maryland. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow at the Policy Center for the New South in Rabat, Morocco and Principal of Economic Policy International, LLC, providing consulting services to international organizations and corporations. He was a co-chair of the Trade, Investment and Globalization Task-Force of the T20 and Vice-Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Trade and Investment at the World Economic Forum. His books include “WTO Accessions and Trade Multilateralism” (with Chiedu Osakwe, co-editor), “Juggernaut: How Emerging Markets Are Transforming Globalization” (with William Shaw), “Inequality in America” (with Kemal Dervis and others), “Currency Wars” (with Vera Eidelman, co-editor) and “Paradigm Lost: The Euro in Crisis”.

     

    Dadush was previously Director of the International Economics Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Director of International Trade, as well as Director of Economic Policy, and Director of the Development Prospects Group at the World Bank. Based previously in London, Brussels, and Milan, he spent 15 years in the private sector, where he was President of the Economist Intelligence Unit, Group Vice President of Data Resources, Inc., and a consultant with Mc Kinsey and Co. His columns have appeared in the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Il Sole 24 Ore, and L’Espresso. He has a B.A. and M.A. in Economics from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Ph.D. in Business Economics from Harvard University.

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