The European Union (EU) presented its new trade strategy in early 2021. This article assesses whether the strategy constitutes a path-altering development in EU trade policy. Drawing on concepts from Historical Institutionalism the article assesses the presence and influence of the permissive and productive conditions necessary for a critical juncture, meaning a path-altering policy development, to occur. The permissive conditions refer to the external environment, while the productive conditions are internal, referring to ideational (cognitive and normative) and instrumental developments. We find that although the EU responded instrumentally to changes in the international trading system, and a loosening of the liberal international order, the new trade strategy was not accompanied by a complete ideational change. The EU’s normative outlook was little changed in 2021. The conclusion discusses how subsequent changes in the international environment and trade instruments may affect EU trade policy, and whether, over a longer time-period, the new strategy may nonetheless be identified as the start of a critical juncture.