The European Commission presented its Open, Sustainable and Assertive (OSA) trade strategy in early 2021, heralding the document as representing a new and strategic approach to countering dependency and strengthening resiliency. We analyse the OSA through policy paradigms, making two contributions to the trade policy literature. First, we show that embedded liberalism and fair trade—often presented as two trade paradigms —are rather elements of one, namely managed globalisation (MG). Using qualitative and quantitative content analyses, we argue that MG has been more influential in shaping 21st-century trade policy than heretofore recognised in the literature. Second, we show that the OSA represents a paradigmatic rebalancing and complementarity, between the MG and a realist trade-as-foreign-policy paradigm. The OSA represents an EU seeking to increase its capabilities in order to defend its values and interests, while simultaneously promoting the return to a rules-based liberal international trading order; the co-dominance of MG and trade-as-foreign-policy represent an evolution from managing interdependence to managing dependency.
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