EU looks towards East to counter worsening ties with US

By Nawab Khan BRUSSELS, As relations between the European Union and the US sink by the day, EU leaders are looking more and more Eastwards in an attempt to rebalance its international ties.

The EU held two crucial summits in the Far East this week, one with China and the other with Japan, seen as a signal to Washington that Europe can find trustful friends elsewhere. A day earlier, US President Donald Trump had derided the EU as a “foe” to the US.

“We also have many other friends in the world,” EU High Representative Federica Mogherini responded after Trump designated the EU as an enemy.

Moreover, to the chagrin of EU leaders, the White House chief praised the meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, saying it was better than the NATO summit that he attended in Brussels last week.

“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

The leader of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, Udo Bullmann, in an angry reaction released a statement saying, “Both Trump and Putin are attempting to undermine Western democracies. Europe has to stand up against this. Before Trump, the US were a reliable partner for Europe, today we are called an enemy by Trump,” he said.

Meanwhile, the European press is expressing concern over Trump’s unpredictable international policies. “It’s often said that only an external enemy can bring together nations with different interests. Europe now has two such enemies and must learn its lesson from this,” wrote the French newspaper Liberation.

At their summit in Beijing on July 16, the EU and China agreed to further develop their strategic partnership and expressed their joint support for rules-based international trade order.

“It is a common duty of Europe and China, America and Russia, not to destroy this order, but to improve it. Not to start trade wars, which turned into hot conflicts so often in our history,” remarked European Council President Donald Tusk after the summit.

A day later, on July 17 in Tokyo, EU and Japan signed two landmark agreements; a free trade deal and a strategic partnership, to increase their cooperation.

“This is an act of enormous strategic importance for the rules-based international order, at a time when some are questioning this order. We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism,” commented Tusk in a clear jibe to Washington.

Tension in EU-US ties is rising over trade disputes such as tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and international issues like the Iran nuclear deal.

On July 18, the European Commission announced a record USD-five-billion fine on the US tech giant Google for abuse of its dominant market position.

Trump warned the EU over Google, saying in a tweet on Thursday that the EU has “truly taken advantage of the US, but not for long.” Analysts say that the Iran nuclear deal is all but dead after the US withdrew from the agreement in May, leaving the EU perplexed and helpless. Brussels has been glorifying the deal as one of its biggest diplomatic achievements.

Although European leaders are calling for less dependency on the US, analysts point out that Europe is too dependent on Washington for its security and economic welfare, and it is nearly impossible to replace the transatlantic alliance by inking trade and strategic agreements elsewhere.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, speaking at a conference in Brussels on Thursday said that EU-US annual trade is worth USD-one-trillion in goods and services.

The EU is by far the largest investor in the US and 15 million jobs are supported by the transatlantic economy, she noted, stressing “the EU-US relationship is essential to the stability of trade flows.” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will meet with Trump at the White House on July 25 in an attempt to soothe the strain in relations between the two sides. Trump and Juncker “will focus on improving transatlantic trade and forging a stronger economic partnership,” the Commission said in a statement.

According to the Brussels-based online news service EURACTIV, Juncker also intends to be firm in defending the “honour” of the EU.

“But expectations are low about what results the meeting could bring,” it concluded.

Source: Kuwait News Agency