A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation

January 26, 2018

Foreign & Domestic Policy Virtual Meeting

Participants of the Foreign & Domestic Policy group came together for their second virtual meeting on January 26, 2018. The aim of the meeting was to identify 5-10 policy recommendations that address or solve the issues of concern that have been discussed so far.

The points raised during the discussion focused on several topics:

  • What is the role of the transatlantic relationship in a world with increasing populist sentiments?
  • What is the future of the transatlantic relationship?
  • How big of a role should Europe play in terms of global defense and security?
  • Will the private sector take on more responsibility in the transatlantic relationship since there seem to be policy disagreements between the governments of the United States and several European states?
  • How can transatlantic leaders cooperate when engaging with China?

It is apparent that the current U.S. administration is handling foreign policy in a way that is different from all past administrations. President Trump’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 26, 2018, made this clear. There was an obvious disconnect between what he was saying (that “America first” does not mean “America only,” while encouraging businesses to invest in the U.S.) and what European leaders such as Angela Merkel had to say, which was to admonish isolationism and promote global free trade. Currently, there does not appear to be as much incentive for the European Union to seek bi- or multilateral cooperation with the United States on this front at the federal level, but that may provide channels for private companies, non-governmental organizations, or even local governments to seek a multi-level relationship.

There are doubts on both sides of the Atlantic regarding the future of transatlantic relations. Populist sentiment in the United States follows President Trump’s “America First” ideology, which dismisses the need for transatlantic cooperation. This is causing some Europeans to doubt Europe’s relationship with the United States; perhaps Europe can move on without the United States and become more self-sufficient, especially in terms of security and defense. However, not all Europeans, especially Germans, are on board with greater military power. Defense should be framed as a European issue rather than a German or NATO issue; Germans might then be more receptive to taking a larger role on defense and security. Transatlantic burden sharing encompasses many issues, including populism, an issue many European countries are also struggling with, and can help improve relations.

If the future of the transatlantic relationship is uncertain, what will China’s role become? What is China’s role now? Europe and the United States currently have more in common with each other than either have with China. For example, where the U.S. and Europe give several African countries a great deal of aid, China has both state-driven and private manufacturing firms in Africa. This may cause several African states to choose China over the West, if they were forced to make a choice. Even though China has been problematic, e.g., regarding human rights violations and unfair market competition, many foreign firms are too afraid to lose out on the Chinese market to effectively combat these problems. The United States and Europe must maintain the transatlantic relationship to effectively compete with China. The U.S. and Europe are currently at odds over regulation issues but cooperation vis-à-vis China is paramount.

Among the most vital issues that should be addressed are:

  • The underlying issues of populism and rebuilding public trust
  • Cybersecurity
  • Energy resilience
  • Transatlantic defense
  • Russia’s role in “sharp power”
  • Global mobility
  • Climate change
  • Global tax reform