The Impact of the Elections in the USA on the EU-US Relations
by Kseniya Pavlovich (December 2, 2016)
Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead after all debates and according to opinion polls. Donald Trump was sharply criticized for his statements on migration, women’s rights and rights of minorities and it was difficult to believe that these statements brought him people’s support. Moreover, the idea of the first female President sounded too good. However, it happened - Donald Trump is the new American President.
The European leaders expressed the respect for democratic choice of American people. At the same time they expressed several concerns. In particular, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament said that the victory of Donald Trump is “a difficult moment” in the relationships between the United States and the European Union”. Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, noted that Trump’s victory brings also “new challenges” and “uncertainty of the future of the transatlantic relations”. According to Trump’s campaign speeches, concerns of the European leaders are justified especially in the following fields: TTIP, collective defense and NATO as well as climate change.
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP is the trade agreement between two of the most modern and developed economies of the EU and the USA. The TTIP negotiations started under the Obama’s administration and in the very beginning were planned to be finished by the end of 2014 long before the change of political leader in the USA. However, due to different issues among which are also internal protests against it from both sides of the Atlantic, the process of negations took much more time and is still ongoing. The British decision to leave the EU this June was the first stroke on the future of the TTIP. Being an important USA’s trade partner, the UK made the EU less attractive for the USA and weakened its negotiation power after leaving the Union. However, making it more complicated the Brexit did not kill the TTIP and everyone agreed that its future mostly depends on the next US administration. Hillary Clinton’s victory definitely would have brought more light on the future of the TTIP negotiations. However, Trump’s views on this trade deal are not so optimistic. His campaign speeches show that he does not believe in the benefits of the free-trade agreements, considering them “an attack on American business”. Trump is convinced that trade kills jobs and crashes American workers. Therefore, there are many concerns that although TTIP has survived the Brexit, it can be totally killed due to Trump’s views on trade.
The second issue that raises concerns of the European leaders is the cooperation within the framework of NATO. It seems that with Trump’s victory NATO enters a new period of its development. Donald Trump is convinced that the USA shall stop playing the role of the world policeman. Moreover, he expects that the EU countries shall show more commitment to the military alliance: if they want to be protected they shall be ready to pay more. These statements in conjunction with the Trump’s intentions to rebuilt relations with Russia are sending an alarm signal to the EU. It is unlikely that the president-elect will totally undermine the USA’s commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty. However, it is seems to be the most timely moment for the EU to think about strengthening its own defense capacities.
And finally, as a prominent advocate of the climate change prevention, the EU like the rest of the world can be concerned about Trump’s attitude towards climate problems. The reason for such concerns is that Donald Trump does not believe in the link between human activities and climate change. In his 100-days actions plan the president-elect stated that he will cancel payments to the UN climate change programs and cancel the USA’s participation in historical Paris agreement. This reminds the situation with the Kyoto Protocol which was signed under the Bill’s Clinton administration but was not ratified by a then-new president George Bush, who believed that the protocol would harm American economy. In order to save the Kyoto Protocol the EU had to make several concessions to Russia to encourage it to join the Protocol. Fortunately, as distinct from the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement has been already ratified by the USA. According to the Paris Agreement, it will take Trump four years to leave the agreement if he withdraws from it. Therefore, it is possible that Trump’s term will be already over and the agreement can be easily re-ratified by a new President. However, the weak point of the Paris Agreement is that it does not have the enforcement mechanisms except “naming and shaming”. Thus, there is a possibility that new charismatic leader will just neglect the agreement, which effectiveness without the participation of the second biggest emitter will be at stake.
In general, Trump’s victory was an event that shook the world, making a lot of important issues uncertain. And it seems that it is the best time for the European Union to prove its status of a normative and negotiating power. However, it also depends how many of the campaign promises will be fulfilled. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that President’s power is not absolute but controlled by the system of checks and balances.
Kseniya Pavlovich is Junior Policy Analyst at Bridging Europe
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