European American relationships - what lies in the future?



First I would like to thank many friends of mine for taking their time to discuss with me about their views about the future of European American relationships especially from trading perspective. As a background information it has to be mentioned that United States is very divided as a country right now. The people are either for or against president Trump and his policies. You can’t really meet people who are neutral towards current regime. I had an idea what I’ll write in this article before I went to USA on May. During my visit due to the developments taking place in USA it became more and more difficult to come to a conclusion about the actual contents of the article. The situation is more or less the same today. President Trump regime’s policies seem to be changing day by day. What is good from Europe’s perspective however is that Europe is not such a frequent topic of discussion over there.

President Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States of America created a lot of insecurity in Europe. The reason for this was the lacking strategic orientation in president Trump’s communication during the campaign about his policies related to international relations and Europe. The constant changes in his opinions were not helping this issue at all.

President Trump’s main attention in terms of international trade and its’ unfairness for USA was focused on NAFTA and Asia, particularly China, since the beginning of the presidential campaign. During last spring trading with Europe or EU have been mentioned only occasionally by president Trump. His attention seems to focus more on geographic areas which his voters can relate to, mostly NAFTA and China are his main geographic areas of concentration.  His main focus in terms of fair trade for USA is not on actual topics of trade. His goal is to achieve fair trading agreements with countries or trading regions (e.g. NAFTA) and he would also like to show that his trade deals which he has makes are better compared to ones negotiated during the previous regime. 

There seemed to be an assumption in Europe towards more positive development in European American relationships after regime changed in USA. Unfortunately this has not been the case. There have been actually  some positive signs of relationship development between Europe and USA (such as president Trump’s visit in France to participate in Bastille Day celebrations) after president Trump’s first disastrous visit to Europe. His inability to co-operate with Europe’s strongest country’s leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, has not made the development of European American relationships any easier. Trust between European and American leaders has been tested during last spring and summer. Chancellor Merkel’s statement at the end of May describes very well the current status of European American relationships:’We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.’ By the way it has to be mentioned that in USA it is not widely known how security policies of European countries and defence budget allocations have been influenced by the annexation of Crimean peninsula. Usage of military power as this type of tool in Russia’s foreign policy has been considered impossible in Europe since Soviet Union collapsed. The annexation of Crimean peninsula showed to European leaders that Russia’s foreign policy’s tools go way beyond diplomacy.  Since the developments taking place in Ukraine, European countries have been preparing better to respond against these kind of threats on their own and with their allies.

Even though the US regime’s strategy towards Europe seems to be missing Common Thread, it looks like Europe or EU are not central when you consider the geographic areas which seem to be on focus of president Trump’s regime. President Trump’s main focus is clearly on NAFTA and Asia. USA has trade deficit e.g. both with China and EU. The deficit is percentagewise much higher with China compared to Europe. The trade deficit problem of USA with China is far bigger compared to the challenge faced with EU. One thing that needs to be considered in the future analysis of European American relationships is how these relationships are perceived by president Trump’s voters. Key issues in communication towards the voters from international trading perspective have been: jobs created and better trade deals. If news about jobs being created in USA can be published or new trade deals with a country or e.g. EU can be published, new arrangements in trading would be considered as good news for president Trump.


Ville-Pekka Mäkeläinen


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