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Past Event

Back to what? Trans-Atlantic relations in the Biden era

Past Event

Event summary by Colleen Dougherty on Thursday, July 8, 2021

On June 11, as part of the Brookings – Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative, the Center on United States and Europe (CUSE) at Brookings hosted a half-day conference to explore the future of trans-Atlantic relations and how Europe fits into President Biden’s U.S. foreign policy agenda.

In a keynote conversation moderated by CUSE Director Thomas Wright, David Miliband, former U.K. foreign secretary and president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, expanded upon his recent Foreign Affairs article on the current age of impunity. According to Miliband, accountability promotion should be the Biden administration’s focus as an “alternative to democracy promotion and reinforcement.” This focus on “the growing age of impunity reflects an imbalance of power as those in power feel there is no countervailing power against the breaking of international law.” Miliband emphasized that to counter impunity, “governments are not enough;” mobilizing civil society and working with the private sector must be part of the solution. Cooperation in a time of deep interdependence between nations and countries is crucial to defend democracies.

Moderated by Nonresident Senior Fellow Jeremy Shapiro, the first panel featured Robert Bosch Senior Visiting Fellow James Goldgeier; Member of the German Bundestag Franziska Brantner; and CUSE Visiting Fellow Célia Belin. The panelists focused on the Biden administration’s present approach to Europe and the trans-Atlantic relationship. While Goldgeier argued that America’s foreign policy towards Europe is heavily related to the American approach to China and Russia, making Europe lower on America’s priority list, Brantner expressed that she “hopes Europe can match Biden’s ambitions and mutual values,” especially in terms of European strategic sovereignty and security. Moreover, Belin argued that France wishes to be recognized for its continued push for a strong multilateralist strategic agenda, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also asserted that Europeans feel impatient and are worried that the Biden administration is too inward looking. The panelists agreed that Europeans do not just worry about a return of Trump but also about his lingering policies, including on trade and the ongoing travel ban.

Moderated by Nonresident Senior Fellow Douglas A. Rediker, the second panel featured Senior Fellow for Trade and International Political Economy at the Council on Foreign Relations Jennifer Hillman; Robert Bosch Senior Fellow Fiona Hill; and Senior Fellow at both the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the German Marshall Fund Jacob Kirkegaard. The panelists explored the implications of Biden’s “foreign policy for the middle class” strategy on trans-Atlantic relations and whether this strategy, including trade, industrial policy, and security, is good for Europe. Hillman emphasized that a “foreign policy for the middle class” takes a “more active government role” centered on the welfare of the American people, rather than one of metrics and addressing grievances such as globalization, climate change, and economic inequality. Hill noted that this new strategy differs from the “America First” strategy the Trump administration put forth because Trump “focused exclusively on trade imbalances” and lost the opportunity to discuss ways that trade with Europe could create jobs in America. With fears of protectionism surrounding the foreign policy strategy, Kirkegaard, explained that Europe understands that the United States remains very open to EU exports and that the Biden stimulus will help the EU economy.

The panel concluded with final thoughts on the need for lasting comprehensive agreements between the United States and Europe “beyond the federal level” and a consideration of the new foreign policy strategy as, ultimately, in Europe’s interest.

Agenda

Welcome remarks

Henry Alt-Haaker

Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Robert Bosch Academy - Robert Bosch Stiftung

Keynote conversation

Panel 1 – Should the administration be more ambitious in trans-Atlantic relations?

Panel 2 – Is Biden’s “foreign policy for the middle class” good for Europe?

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