Perspectives for transatlantic cooperation and integration

23 March 2007

Jens van Scherpenberg, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Research Unit, The Americas, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) said the key for a new EU-US deal was “vision and soberness” - the vision to reach for a long-term perspective beyond current, deliverable joint policies; and a sober awareness of the “formidable” difficulties of implementation and the cost of not moving decisively ahead with transatlantic integration.

Transatlantic partnership agreements have fallen far short of expectations in recent years, with the balance of power shifting between Washington and the EU Member States - most recently swinging back in Europe’s favour.

EU-US trade relations remain strong, but their relative importance has fallen. For instance, US and EU trade with China in 2005 as a percentage of EU-US trade is nearly 60% and 50% respectively - compared with just 10% in both cases in 1990. The aim now should be for an ambitious agenda without creating an “Atlantic fortress” of EU-US domination over the rest of the world economy.

Clear areas of conflict are air subsidies, farm trade, regulatory barriers, mutual market opening, compatible arms regulations, and access to public procurement and services markets.

Mr van Scherpenberg was not confident about the prospects. Certainly, he said, many regional free-trade initiatives currently being considered had a higher chance of success than the completion of a comprehensive EU-US accord. But it was right to try and this was the best chance for 15 years.

“There is a window of opportunity opening now which will not be open for ever,” he warned. Failure would mean fragmented capital markets, and a multi-polar instead of a multilateral world order.

Peter Rudolf, Head of Research Unit, The Americas, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) said the debate was about what international US role was best from an EU point of view. US leadership in international affairs remained necessary because the EU and the other world “power centres” did not have the will, capacity or infrastructure to take on that role.

The current foreign policy debate in the US is not about giving up international leadership; it is about securing that role in the longer term.

Building the EU up as a power to balance the US is neither realistic nor necessary. The answer is to shift the US role to one of “liberal” leadership, maintaining cooperative relations with other major powers. But the US would remain ready to intervene “for the sake of world order” even when vital national US issues were not involved.

American security concerns should be recognised, as should EU-US differences on the legitimacy of war.

Europe’s job in influencing the US debate is now to close ranks with Washington where no differences exist, and to assert European positions through “soft balancing” - using international institutions to restrain US power by refusing to give legitimacy to US actions and by attaching more conditions to EU-US accords.

The US will remain a global leader certainly for decades to come, said Mr Rudolf, and Europe’s transatlantic thinking needs to become more strategic.

Erika Mann MEP, a member of the European Parliament's Committee on International Trade, and chair of the Transatlantic Policy Network (TPN), hoped that the EU-US summit would end some of the “vagueness” around EU-US ties, particularly in trade, and develop some sectoral-based accords.

She wanted summit language on closer integration, and said binding accords with the US should not be shunned and there had to be an economic accord which would help developing countries move into the mainstream.

Any major transatlantic agreement should not “divide the world” - a serious risk unless there were balancing cooperative moves with other parts of the globe.

Marek Grela, Director, General Secretariat of the Council’s Directorate America, United Nations, human rights and counter-terrorism, and former Polish Permanent Representative to the EU, said the future EU-US relationship obviously required political will and determination, but many European politicians were “short term” while being required to forge long-term policies.

This is the paradox legislators faced, but Germany should be praised for pressing ahead with an EU-US relationship not universally popular in Europe.

However, there is a “lack of equivalence” between the sides: political balance is vital, and many current EU-US problems stem from the rebalancing of NATO. Europe should now be more assertive towards the US, setting a “comprehensive but realistically ambitious” agenda.

There is still a great deal of potential in the transatlantic market, but the US and Europe no longer represent the only model of modernisation. More global rules are needed on issues such as the environment, energy and transport. The EU and US cannot change the world, but could have significant influence - as long as the relationship is “re-weighted”.

Daniel Mullaney, Senior Trade Representative at the US Mission to the EU, said there were clearly great trade and investment opportunities available by strengthening EU-US ties, and great progress had recently been made in regulatory talks on issues such as services and intellectual property protection. The aim of the EU-US summit is to give that process a boost, because bilateral agreements on the EU-US scale could only help the multilateral cause.

The WTO’s Doha accord is an obvious target, although it is not just about the EU and US: it is unfortunate that so much attention has been paid to the transatlantic agricultural clashes.

Progress is also needed on regulatory cooperation in areas such as bio-tech products, hormone beef, on sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, as well as on REACH chemicals’ legislation, which seemed to ignore transatlantic trade considerations when it was agreed recently.