Global Responsibility

Building a Smarter German-American Partnership

How Do Germany and the United States Engage with One Another to Address International Challenges?

On November 5, 2018, participants in AGI’s project “A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation: Global Responsibility, Joint Engagement” met in Washington, DC, to discuss current issues of concern for the transatlantic relationship. Young leaders in the fields of foreign and domestic policy; society, culture, and politics; and economics will come together to address challenges facing the United States and Germany and identify strategies that can contribute to solving these challenges. The three groups identified common challenges and opportunities for collaboration and presented preliminary recommendations to strengthen the transatlantic relationship.


  • Mass migration is a challenge for both the United States and Germany, and both countries must develop better tools for dealing with migration. The challenge lies not only in managing the number of people crossing into their borders, but also the integration of immigrants into the societies. The United States and Germany must learn from each other and encourage civil society cooperation for best integration practices and policies.
  • Populism has shown that governments need to refresh political systems to be more responsive to the people. We need new perspectives coming from people with a minority background. It is also imperative to convey to the masses why the transatlantic relationship is important to them and not exclusive to the elite.
  • Both the United States and Germany have domestic “third rails,” big-picture, contentious political buzzwords that kill progress. We must leverage areas where we can work together and avoid rhetoric and divisive issues. Smaller, technical issues (cyber regulation, data protection) are often less contentious. One potential avenue is our shared interest in democracy and countering other countries from meddling in elections.
  • Expanding understanding of the importance of the German-American (and broader transatlantic) relationship will require bringing the conversation down from the federal level to the state and local levels. Examining challenges on a smaller scale make them easier to overcome, such as states agreeing to continue to uphold the commitments of the Paris Agreement after the United States pulled out of the deal. Sister cities can play an important role.
  • We need a stronger vision of what the transatlantic relationship is today and what it can be used for. But who can define this vision—who has the legitimate power to create a new vision for the alliance? It is important to find areas of agreement and determine where, when, how, and why the United States and Germany need each other.
  • Transatlantic scholarships and exchange programs can be a critical component of ensuring a continued commitment to the relationship. Engaging the youth is important, and these programs tend to be a less political/decisive topic.


  • The state of the U.S.-German relationship: it has been strained at the highest political levels, but at lower levels the relationship continues to be robust.
  • The fundamentals that connect the two countries remain strong. We can continue to unite behind common values, such as democracy and rule of law.
  • Civil society has an important role to play in the transatlantic relationship, but more must be done. Often, the rejection of globalization comes from those who have never had opportunities beyond their borders. Additionally, cultural associations tend to only operate in large cities and do not reach those least exposed to the transatlantic relationship or different cultures.
  • What is the role of the media in this post-factual and fake news world? Misinformation has aided the distrust of the government on both sides of the Atlantic. People are becoming less skeptical of what they read. This provides an area for collaboration and cooperation between the United States and Germany.
  • In order to deal with illiberal forces, the United States and Germany need joint discussions on how to integrate new actors. Additionally, the scope of transatlantic exchange programs can be widened by including participants from countries outside of the U.S. and Germany, especially representatives from countries considered outside the Western world.
  • Important segments of both societies tend to agree that we need a transatlantic alliance, but do not think sufficiently about the critical nature of the relationship. Thus, we must develop a better way to articulate the relationship’s relevance and develop a new vision of the transatlantic relationship. It is also important to target those with little exposure to the other country. One way to do this is by targeting schools without a German program and allocating resources for exchange projects.
  • Given the changes and political climate, it is important to define a new ‘normal’ in the transatlantic relationship and determine trends for the future.
  • The U.S. focus on unilateralism is distinct. Germany retains its multilateral reflex at both governmental and societal levels. Still common goals exist; they just tend to be overshadowed by political rhetoric. There is a potential that civil society actors can fill the gap, but it will be a difficult undertaking. The two countries are also affected differently and have taken somewhat different approaches in regards to the Middle East and Russia, though core goals remain similar. There is room for creating a dialogue between the United States, Germany, Israel, and Palestine, but it would be important to maintain a de-politicized conversation.
  • Anti-LGBT sentiment has been used in populist movements and to boost the global right. It is important that Germany reconnect with its progressive past in being a trailblazer in the LGBT-rights movement. Neither Germany nor the USA has played a strong role in recent years.
  • Recent years have seen shrinking civic spaces and lessening of government commitment to human rights. Both governments need to strengthen their commitment, but also abstain from making too lofty goals; they need to institute a foreign policy of ‘do no harm.’
  • Additionally, communities of color have largely been left out of the transatlantic dialogue and both countries should reach out to minority institutions. Music and other avenues of cultural exchange can also be useful for mutual understanding and serve as cultural bridges. Transatlantic civil society actors cannot expect diverse populations to come to them, they must reach out to previously unreached spaces.


  • What role can the transatlantic relationship play in setting rules for the international economy, including organizations and institutions and new and emerging areas, such as the digital economy?
  • The financial crisis revealed different domestic constraints that affected Germany and the United States, including different welfare systems and benefits. But there are lessons that can be learned from each. In the ten years since the crisis, policies still have not changed enough. There is also still a lack of infrastructure investment and household debt is increasing once more.
  • We must not longer reckon on the transatlantic relationship of the past, but focus on the relationship of the present and of the future. The world we live in today is different—Europe is no longer necessarily the United States’ first partner. What does this mean for the relationship?
  • What can we expect in regards to policy from the United States and Germany in dealing with these geo-economic issues?
  • For a while, the United States was really the only country using sanctions, but their use has continued to grow. Soon, Western sanctions are going to run out of steam as overuse has made them less effective. But what can we replace sanctions with?
  • There has been an increase in atypical work in Germany, which can provide lessons for the United States in the form of dialogue with vocational schools and apprenticeship programs. Additionally, the workers most exposed to robots and new forms of labor often have more secure jobs, as different skills are valued at different levels.
  • China: the U.S. missed an opportunity to form a better relationship with Europe to push back together against China. Still the Chinese would likely be willing to come to the WTO table to have a discussion. China is currently suffering from trade tensions and thus they want to find solutions, preferably technical ones. China wants more of a voice in global institutions, not to destroy them. The question is, where can these conversations be most productive for everyone?
  • The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has set a standard for digital trade, which can have implications for future trade deals.
  • General Data Protection Regulation: the EU has put a lot of focus on regulation and privacy standards. GDPR has largely been seen as successful in Europe and affects businesses not only in Europe, but across the globe. GDPR gives the EU a lot of leverage.
  • There is also the issue of labor transition. Workers tend to move into the service economy when their industry is no longer needed. Thus far, reskilling programs have not been very successful. Both countries should look for successful programs and try to adopt them, and also find synergies between cities in the United States and Germany.
  • Questions to examine: How do we promote small and medium sized enterprises in the global economy? What have the United States and Germany learned from the financial crisis? What would be beneficial to the EU-U.S. relationship for the EU to do now? Is now the time for the Chancellor to propose closer work with the French to move the Eurozone to a new level? Would this hurt the transatlantic relationship?
  • A strong Europe is in the best interest of the United States, but due to Merkel’s announcement to not seek reelection, Germany is essentially a lame duck at the moment and unlikely to take the lead.
  • The WTO may be the most productive forum for having these geo-economic conversations and may be the most likely place for China to come to the table. Looking at domestic issues, in the workforce, rather than trying to harmonize practices, we should try to learn from each other and perhaps emulate best practices. The outlook is not great in Europe for pushback against a future financial crisis. The more that dialogue can find areas of common interest, there is a greater chance of success.