Policy Article

Decoupling Europe


  • Felbermayr
  • G.
  • Gans
  • S.
  • Mahlkow
  • H.
  • Sandkamp
  • A.
Publication Date

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the vulnerability of international value chains in the face of global shocks. This has triggered a political discussion regarding a possible reshoring of vulnerable supply chains back home. The aim is to reduce dependencies on foreign suppliers and thus improve crisis resilience of the domestic economy. The debate is also rooted in the growing dependence on Asian suppliers and the colliding political and ideological systems between China and the West.

Unilateral decoupling of the EU from China (a doubling of trade costs) would reduce real income in the EU on average by 0.8 percent. In terms of GDP in 2019, this equals a permanent loss in real income of 131.4 bn EUR. Should China retaliate, real income would fall by 1.0 percent (170.3 bn EUR). With its extremely interconnected economy, real income in Germany would even decline by 1.4 percent (48.4 bn EUR). China would also lose from such a trade war, with real income declining by 1.3 percent.

Should the EU increase its trade barriers against all its non-European trading partners, real income in the Union would fall by 3.5 percent or 584.3 bn EUR in case of a unilateral increase and by 5.3 percent or 873.1 bn EUR in case the rest of the world responds by also raising trade barriers.


Key Words

  • China
  • European Union
  • Global Value Chains
  • trade