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Europe’s Strategic Autonomy Trap

Europe’s share of the global economy may be declining, but the EU remains a major economic power with strong ties to the rest of the world. If its pursuit of strategic autonomy devolves into a push for protectionism or even autarky, it risks losing that status – and becoming more vulnerable than ever.

MUNICH – When it comes to economic growth, Europe has been lagging behind the world’s other major economic powers – the United States and China – for some time. No surprise, then, that the old continent’s relative weight in the global economy is declining fast. How vulnerable does this leave the European Union – and what should EU leaders do about it?

When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, the countries that comprise today’s EU, plus the United Kingdom, accounted for 27.8% of global GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity). For the US, that share was 22.2%. China, with a share of 4%, still hardly registered as an economic power.

Thirty years later, the EU, together with the UK, accounted for 16% of global output, still slightly ahead of America’s 15%. The big shift was in China’s position, which had surpassed its Western counterparts with a share of 18.3%.