Simon J. Evenett & Johannes Fritz | 12 Dec 2017

Having grown in real terms by 60% between 2000 to 2008, extra-EU exports have since stagnated. In terms of export volumes, the bounce back since 2009 was weaker for European exporters than for major trading partners. Average export prices stopped rising in 2012. This study examines what is holding back EU exports. Stripping out other determinants of EU export growth, the focus here is on the impact of trade distortions imposed by foreign governments since the global economic crisis began. 

Our econometric analysis implies that crisis-era trade distortions held back EU Member State export growth to destinations outside of the EU by between 10-20 percentage points between 2008 and 2014. We estimate that the EU export growth deficit compared to China (amounting to on average 35 percentage points from 2008 to 2014) would have been halved in the absence of foreign trade distortions. 

Our results demonstrate the zero-sum nature of contemporary protectionism where governments use policies to shift sales in home and foreign markets towards their firms. Crisis-era trade distortions have reshuffled world trade, although our results imply to a lesser degree for intra-EU trade than for extra-EU trade. 

Recommendations for action by the European Commission to better safeguard European commercial interests are also presented. The systemic findings of this study on the exposure to crisis-era protectionism as well as on the impact on American, Chinese and Japanese export performance ought to be of interest to policymakers and analysts outside of the EU as well.