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This Article critically analyzes the main legal and policy issues that are likely to determine the development of the EU’s trade policy concerning rules on State intervention in the market, specifically on subsidies and SOEs. The article assesses the aforementioned issue especially within the context of the new trade strategy entitled “An Open, Sustainable and Assertive Trade Policy” set out by the European Commission in February 2021, at the core of which stands the concept of strategic autonomy. The focus of our analysis is on key elements of the current EU competition and trade policies and normative initiatives, namely: the relaxation of the usual State aid regime under Articles 107 and 108 TFEU to give Member States more flexibility in supporting their economies and strengthen EU industrial policy; the likelihood of EU proposals resulting in any substantial change to international trade law on subsidies and SOEs at the multilateral (WTO) level; a systemic horizontal investigation into the relevant trade rules promoted by the EU in its most recent practice of PTAs; and, finally, the EU pursuing stronger protection of its companies with its recently announced new regulation on foreign subsidies, on the basis of which the European Commission can investigate foreign subsidies and impose remedies. Even though, at first sight, it may seem that the current evolution of the EU trade policy on these issues seems inconsistent, the Article argues that the unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral approaches are indeed strictly intertwined, and they reveal a significant shift in the most recent EU trade policy objective in relation to the role of State in the market.
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