EU-US relations: Europe extends the hand of peace to Biden
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EU-US relations: Europe extends the hand of peace to Biden

President-elect Joe Biden during last year's campaign. © Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

With less than a week left before Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States, the European Union is taking the opportunity to get trans-Atlantic relations off on the right foot.

Today, the European Parliament published a memorandum of the various bilateral issues on which the two sides can expect to make progress.

A new US president taking office represents an opportunity to reset transatlantic relations,” the document begins, diplomatically avoiding mention of the troubled relationship the EU has had for the last four years with Biden’s predecessor.

At the end of 2020, the European Commission presented a proposal for a new transatlantic agenda with the new administration.

We are taking the initiative to design a new transatlantic agenda fit for today’s global landscape,” Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen said on that occasion.

The transatlantic alliance is based on shared values and history, but also interests: building a stronger, more peaceful and more prosperous world. When the transatlantic partnership is strong, the EU and the US are both stronger. It is time to reconnect with a new agenda for transatlantic and global cooperation for the world of today.”

Presenting its own agenda, the parliament started with Covid-19, and a reminder that President Trump had pulled the US out of the World Health Organisation.

The EU and the US could join forces on funding the development and distribution of vaccines, tests and treatments, as well as working on prevention, preparedness and response,” the parliament says.

On climate change, another issue on which the EU disagreed with the previous administration: “Together the EU and the US could push for ambitious agreements at this year’s UN Summits on Climate and Biodiversity, cooperate on developing green technologies and jointly design a global regulatory framework for sustainable finance.”

On foreign affairs: “The EU and the US also share a commitment to promoting democracy and human rights. However, in some cases they disagree on the best way to proceed,” the documents states.

They both face the challenge of finding the best way to deal with China. Under Trump the US has been a lot more confrontational, while the EU focussed more on diplomacy. In December 2020 EU negotiators agreed a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with China. The deal is currently being scrutinised by the Parliament. The new American leadership represents an opportunity to coordinate their approaches more and better.”

On trade: “From genetically modified food to beef treated with hormones, the EU and the US have had their share of trade disputes. However, both have much to gain from removing barriers,” the paper says.

In 2018 Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium, which led to the EU to impose tariffs on American products. Biden coming in as president is another chance for constructive talks.”

Finally, on multilateral trade: “The EU and the US could also collaborate on reforming the World Trade Organisation, protecting critical technologies and deciding new regulations and standards. The US is currently blocking the dispute resolution mechanisms established under the organisation.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times