European Affairs

Letter From The Publisher     Print Email
Reginald Dale

Time To Start Talking

The advent of the new administration in Washington has brought both new opportunities and new challenges for the Transatlantic relationship. On the positive side there are now better chances to move forward with a new round of international trade negotiations, the subject of articles by Hugo Paemen, Ransford Smith and Marietta Bernot, in this issue of European Affairs.

In our Leader In Focus section, Supachai Panitchpakdi, the next Director General of the World Trade Organization, argues that it will be easier to make the case for a new round, particularly among developing countries, if it can be demonstrated that trade liberalization creates more jobs.


The change of guard in Washington should also encourage Americans and Europeans to agree on their basic strategic interests before tackling specific security issues, according to Senator Fred Thompson, who writes that conceptual differences, especially over Russia, continue to af§ict Transatlantic relations.

That kind of approach may seem even more necessary as Russia makes clear that its views of an emerging "multipolar" world remain sharply at odds with those of Europe and the United States. Such differences were emphasized repeatedly by Sergei B. Ivanov, the new Russian Defense Minister, in a controversial speech at the Wehrkunde security conference in Munich earlier this year, an unofficial translation of which appears on Page 27.

On many of these issues, European governments are still trying to take the measure of the new Bush administration, with varying results. Europeans are now more inclined to accept U.S. plans for missile defense, following clear statements by Donald Rumsfeld, the Defense Secretary, that the plans will go ahead, matched by assurances that their final shape is still undecided.

A breakthrough has occurred in improving Transatlantic trade relations with the resolution of the long running U.S.-EU dispute on bananas. But serious disputes remain over other issues such as beef, the European Airbus and the way the United States taxes its companies' export earnings.

Many Europeans have reacted with dismay to President George W. Bush's confirmation that he will not accept the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, an announcement that should not have surprised anyone familiar with his election campaign last year.

Europeans, particularly on the Left, have been quick to see the negative side of Mr. Bush's policies, a development for which he is himself partly to blame. The White House has tended to rush tactlessly into early decisions on issues such as Kyoto without laying the diplomatic groundwork.

Such problems are exacerbated by underlying differences of principle between the new administration and many European governments over the role of international treaties and organizations in shaping world affairs. Mr. Bush's critics have been prompt to see signs of a new American unilateralism in some of his actions, and a lack of interest in Europe and its opinions.

Mr. Bush will have a chance to de§ect some of this criticism, and to reassure Europeans that he values their views, at meetings in Europe in June with EU and NATO leaders, and at the summit meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrial countries in Italy in July.

It is fortunate for Transatlantic relations that these meetings fall relatively early in the life of the new administration. They should focus Mr. Bush's mind rather more sharply on European and Transatlantic issues.

Europeans will get the chance to tell the American President that, in today's world, the United States and Europe face many of the same concerns, for example over immigration and the future of the Internet, two issues highlighted in this issue of the magazine.

While the European Union is hoping to match the United States in information technology, it could also learn from the United States if Mr. Bush pursues plans for innovative new policies on immigration with President Vicente Fox of Mexico, as both Presidents have promised.

Two or three brief summit meetings this summer will not be enough to resolve all these underlying differences. Past U.S.-EU summits, in particular, have often failed to rise to expectations. There is a strong case for reviewing the working of these six-monthly meetings to find ways of better exploiting their potential.

The responsibility to make progress lies with the European Union, which has also fallen short of expectations in its own recent summit meetings, in Nice last December and in Stockholm in March. As the debate continues in the EU over its institutional future - to which former Commission President Jacques Delors makes a contribution on Page 58 - the Europeans should try to improve the success rate of these top-level fora, which set the overall tone for the Union's decision-making.

Reginald Dale

 

This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number II, Issue number II in the Spring of 2001.

 

Get updates from EI@UMD