Transatlantic Choices: Cooperation or Conflict?

by PAC Policy Intern Marta Cichocka

On July 22, 2019, the Center for Strategic & International Studies hosted the new Director-General of Trade for the European Commission, Dr. Sabine Weyand. On her first official visit to Washington, DC in her new role, she talked about the trading relationship between the United States and the European Union as a backbone of the transatlantic alliance.

In her speech, Dr. Weyand pointed out that, when discussing important matters, such as the role of the US and the EU in constructing and maintaining a multilateral global trading system, we have to start by looking at history. If we do not remember events that have already taken place, we will make the same mistakes, very often with terrible results. Dr. Sabine Weyand later stressed that trade is but the means by which geopolitical competition between the US and China is carried out and the European Union seems to always get caught in between. It is time for the European Union to up its game, to be a rule maker, and to be more assertive. There is no place for the EU to by shy. It is time for stronger defense measures, screening of foreign direct investment, and promoting tools to open up to other countries. Dr. Weyand assured that the European Union is not against the emergence of China, however that it shares the concerns of American partners about its convergence with other global orders. She believes that the EU should use its capital to create opportunities so that Europe, too, can have a voice in developing rules that influence other countries, like China.  

Discussing the relationship between the US and the EU, Dr. Sabine Weyand noted that it certainly is the central artery of global relations. It is a tool for leverage which must work with Japan, as well as with other World Trade Organization member states. There are improvements to be made, from eliminating tariffs to ending disputes on aircraft subsidies which have threatened the relationship between the US and the EU. Both sides should notice that there is a political will to choose cooperation over conflict and together we must begin setting joint standards for new sectors arising for the future, such as robotics and 3D printing.

In order to understand correctly the European approach to the issue of trade it is important to remember that the European Union has learned the hard way that no single country can shape the world on its own, causing it to hold a different view from America. With that being said, both sides must be committed to the relationship and open to reforms, which if necessary will be attached to the World Trade Organization framework. We are in a moment where there is no time to scratch and create a new framework. We have to work with the one that is available and together reform it to fit the needs of the 21st century. There is work to be done, like updating proper dispute settlements or improving working methods, but that is a great starting point for the American – European relationship.  

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