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Ideas Factory-Atlantic Treaty Association Discussion on “The Future of Transatlantic Relations in a Multipolar World: What Challenges Ahead?”

Strong Transatlantic relations are crucial for global stability and prosperity: politico-diplomatic, economic and security dialogue between Northern America and Europe has contributed in defusing tensions and avoiding instability in many areas around the world. However, the on-going global challenges may affect the Transatlantic cohesion by leading to different priorities and strategies on the two sides of the Atlantic. More recently, the international economic and financial crisis has put to test severely the capability of the Transatlantic community to project prosperity, security and cooperation worldwide, while political uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic risks to progressively undermine the very endurance of such a pillar of a liberal and still Western-led world order.

In light of these developments, the Ideas Factory and the Atlantic Treaty Association organised a debate on “The Future of Transatlantic Relations in a Multipolar World: What Challenges Ahead?”, on Tuesday 13 November 2012.

Discussions were kicked-off by Mr Fabrice Pothier, Head of the Policy Planning Unit of the Secretary General, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Mr Ellis Mathews, Deputy Head of Division, United States and Canada, European External Action Service (EEAS).

 Background to EU-US relations:

·  A solid partnership between the EU and the US developed in the wake of World War II, to deal with the challenges posed by the Soviet Union

·  The economic and financial crises have severely tested the ability of the EU and US to project stability

·  The re-election of President Obama is generally hailed as the way forward for stability, substantial continuity and multilateral relations

·  Strong transatlantic relations are crucial to global stability and prosperity and the EU must make the case for cooperation with the US and make its voice heard

Transatlantic relations today:

·   The EU and the US have a mutual desire to boost growth

·   Nowadays, there is better articulation of EU-US cooperation on the issues of Iran and Afghanistan, compared to during the Iraq war in 2003

· On the global trade agenda, the EU and US have differing views; the Doha multilateral trade negotiations have stalled and bilateral courses of action are now being taken

· There are also conflicting views regarding climate change – the US favours energy efficiency and technological development, whereas the EU wants regulation

·  The EU and US are divided on counter-terrorism, with the US favouring the use of drones and using unilateral force, but the EU takes issue with this and the Obama administration increasing the US use of drones

· It is important to note that, with regards to security and foreign policy, who is in Congress is as important to the EU as who is in the White House

· Both the EU and US have significant interests in Asia, but not the same security focus – both the EU and US have an interest in keeping South East Asia prosperous and stable

The future of transatlantic relations – what next:

·  The EU seems to be on the right track in sorting out its economic issues – it is possible that both the EU and US will make a comeback within the next few years

· There will likely be a push by both the EU and US for free trade around the world

· In Europe’s southern and eastern neighbourhood, the US’ role is foreseen to be more calibrated

· To ensure more balanced relations with the US, the EU should be more assertive in some areas

· The EU needs to be more strategic and must define its own interests in Asia – it can learn from the US but should not be tempted to follow its blueprint

Questions to ponder:

· How will transatlantic relations fare under President Obama’s second term?

· With the EU losing ground in Congress, what impact will opening up the US to EU competition have there?



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