【CISS StratFocus】The 12th CISS StratFocus Forum Held to Discuss Synergy between von der Leyen-led European Commission Trade Policy and Foreign Policy


On October 23, the 12th StratFocus Forum of the Center for International Security and Strategy (CISS) of Tsinghua University themed “Synergy between von der Leyen-led European Commission Trade Policy and Foreign Policy and its Dilemma” was held. Shi Yan, Fellow of CISS, was invited as the key speaker. Yang Chengyu, Associate Researcher at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; and Dong Yifan, Assistant Research Fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations were invited as panelists to discuss and exchange views on European Union (EU) trade and foreign policies. The Forum was moderated by Sun Chenghao, Fellow of CISS.


Shi Yan first introduced the Lisbon Treaty as the main jurisprudential basis for the synergy between EU trade policy and foreign policy and pointed out that the economic power of the single market and the exclusive competence of the EU institutions in the field of trade policy enable the EU to realize many foreign policy objectives through the aid of trade policy. However, due to the control of member states over foreign sovereignty and the embarrassing position of the European Commission in foreign policy, the synergy between EU trade policy and foreign policy has always been a dilemma. When von der Leyen took over the leadership of the European Commission, the EU was under the triple strategic anxiety of the “re-industrialization” dilemma, “normative force” frustration, and intensified geopolitical and economic competition. Under his leadership, the European Commission tries to strengthen the synergy between trade policy and foreign policy by leveraging the instrumentality of trade policy to the extreme and strengthening the export of values, ideological positions, and politicization of economic and trade issues. EU foreign policy objectives once overrode trade policy objectives, resulting in policy dissonance rather than real synergy. Shi Yan took the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment negotiations, the EU-Mercosur trade agreement negotiations, the EU-India trade agreement negotiations, and the EU-US bilateral economic and trade and China-related issues coordination as four cases to assess the synergy between the EU trade policy and foreign policy since von der Leyen took over the leadership of European Commission.


Panelists Yang Chengyu and Dong Yifan shared their own views. According to Yang, historically, the promotion of European integration cannot be separated from common external threats and crises. The EU has made repeated attacks on China-related issues in recent years to build a common understanding of external challenges, resulting in conflicts and distortions between foreign policy and economic and trade interests. According to Dong, the frequent refugee problems, racial conflicts, and other practical situations prove that the EU’s proud values-based diplomacy is gradually failing, and the institutional problem of the European Commission’s strong economy and weak diplomacy is rooted in the EU’s lack of strategic autonomy on security issues.

In the end, the key speaker and panelists answered questions raised by the audience and conducted more in-depth discussions and exchanges around the topic. The Forum was concluded successfully.

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[CISS StratFocus]:

The StratFocus Forum is launched by the Center for International Security and Strategy of Tsinghua University, with the objective of fostering more talents and building an academic community on security and strategy. The Forum, which is held monthly, aims to serve as an academic exchange platform for students and young scholars in the fields of strategy, security, international relations, and diplomacy, where they will be invited to discuss pressing global issues and cutting-edge research in their disciplines, and promote communication and interaction between young scholars and students. We very much look forward to seeing you at the Forum.

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