Filling up the Void, an Opportunity for the European Union?

Filling up the Void, an Opportunity for the European Union?

Donald Trump has recently announced that he will sit together with the Canadian Prime Minister – Justin Trudeau – to discuss updating or abolishing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This does not come as a surprise, Donald Trump has stated on multiple occasions that he intends to leave or renegotiate this arrangement. NAFTA, however, is not an isolated case; Trump has been drawing back from various other international agreements. But who is going to fill the US’s leadership’s shoes? Might it be high time for the European Union to assert itself and stand up?

While most US policies of the current government deal with domestic issues, or are in one way or another centred around the US (America First), some of its policies have a direct global impact, such as leaving the Paris Climate Agreement, leaving and cancelling negotiations on Free Trade Agreements, planning to cancel the deal with Iran, cutting money on certain research projects… It has been said that the US is increasingly following a policy of protectionism. This has direct consequences for how other countries view the U.S.

The minister of foreign affairs of Iran phrased it well. By cancelling international agreements made by previous presidents, the USA undermines its credibility as an international player. Moreover, the statement “USA comes first”, could be interpreted as a realist foreign policy, where it only concentrates on the relative gains of the US, despite the consequences for the global order: a zero-sum game, a policy where the advantages off one country are offset by the losses of another.

This stands in shrill contrast with the previous US administration that often took leadership in working together to create a global win-win situation. By cooperating, all included parties could become richer, greener and more peaceful. This sudden reversal of the current US president, however has left a large leadership and trade vacuum in these win-win international policies.

The European Union, bureaucratic and slow as it is, has proven itself a reliable and committed global player. In that context, we at Access2Europe wonder about the opportunities that this win-win vacuum has created for Europe. How do we currently make use of the USA leaving multiple international agreements? How will this evolve in the future? And how should the Union play its cards?

China has already reacted decisively when the USA decided to leave the Paris Climate Agreements. They emphasised they would – together with Europe – work hard to reduce pollution, effectively taking the leadership role in climate change from the US. France, under Macron’s leadership invited US scientists to move to France and continue their research in Europe. European businesses are using the fact that Trump abandoned the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) already to their advantage and scientific research in Europe is bolstering its commitments to clean and sustainable technologies.

With what is happening today, how should Europe react towards issues such as:

    • USA threatening NAFTA, leaving TPP and cancelling TTIP
    • Diplomatic relations with Iran
    • The Paris Climate Agreement
    • Becoming a key Diplomacy player in the Middle-East
    • Invite and nurture a strong scientific community

Gabriel – German minister of economy – told the business newspaper Handelsblatt. “(Trump’s protectionism) will be very expensive for Americans – the economy doesn’t run on pressure and orders from politicians. For Europe, I see opportunities if Trump distances himself not just from China, but all of Asia. Europe should quickly come up with a new Asia strategy. We need to exploit the spaces America is opening up now.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said as a reaction to the possible retreat of the US out of the Iran deal “The American position today is a position of strength … of rivalry between powers and a denial of the interests of multilateralism”.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel perhaps said it best: “We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands,” Let’s talk what that destiny could be. What the European dream is, what Europe’s role could be in this unexpectedly changed global order with available vacuums.

So, we at Access2Europe would like to talk about this, with you. Would you like to cooperate with us on this subject, or just wish to be kept up to date? Shoot us an e-mail at info@access2europe.eu.

Further reading:

Foreign Policy (It’s up to Europe to save the Iran Deal)

Reuters (As US retreats, EU and China seak leadership)

Politico (Trump’s Trade Pullout Roals Rural America)

Business Insider (The EU wants to set Global Trade Rules after Trump Steps Back)