21st Jan 2021

EU keen to repair damage of Trump years

  • Victory of US president-elect Joe Biden was "a once-in-a-generation opportunity", the EU said (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The EU has set out how to undo the damage caused by four years of US president Donald Trump's rule, by trying to "make multilateralism great again".

The phrase, contained in an EU strategy paper on US relations, out on Wednesday (2 December), poked fun at Trump's slogan of "make America great again".

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The paper noted that Trump's jingoism had left a lasting mark on transatlantic relations, by pushing Europe to seek "greater strategic autonomy".

It also noted that the rise in Chinese economic power had changed the global landscape.

"We should not embark on a nostalgic search for the global order of past decades ... The US and the EU have changed, as have power dynamics and geopolitical and technological realities," it said.

But it placed hope in US president-elect Joe Biden, saying there was, once again "a commonality of outlook ... between the incoming US administration and the European Union".

And it described Biden's victory as "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design a new transatlantic agenda".

Trump had torn up plans for an EU-US free-trade pact designed to contain Chinese power.

He also attacked the World Health Organisation's (WHO) efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, walked out of a UN climate-change deal, and an EU-brokered Iran nuclear disarmament treaty, as well as insulting EU leaders and championing Brexit.

The EU's new agenda called on Biden to join the EU and WHO in trying to ensure global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and the UN on creating carbon neutrality by 2050.

It looked forward to Biden's proposed "Summit for Democracy" in which Europe would "seek joint commitments with the US to fight the rise of authoritarianism, human rights abuses, and corruption".

It also said the EU and US should hail their new partnership at a bilateral summit in the first half of 2021.

It made no mention of reviving the free-trade pact, but said it would "work closely with the US to solve bilateral trade irritants".

It also spoke of teaming up with the US against China on development and regulation of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and '5G' data networks, by creating a regular "EU-US Trade and Technology Council".

"We expect things can be improved on all fronts - on climate for sure, on the Iran nuclear deal also," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told press in Brussels on Wednesday.

He proposed new talks at foreign-minister level on the Iran pact even before Biden took office in January and new talks on China shortly afterward.

"I think it [reviving the Iran deal] is the only way to avoid Iran becoming a nuclear power," he said.

But he said it was "crazy" to say the EU and US aimed to lock out China from the global market in new technologies.

"We want a level playing field, reciprocity [with China]," he said.

He said Europe's bid for greater economic and military "self-reliance" was not designed to compete with US power, but to make the EU a more effective ally.

But he also echoed the strategy paper in saying it would be impossible to reset the clock to pre-Trump days.

"The past few years [of Trump] were a bumpy road and we're not going to go back to where we were before," Borrell said.


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