In March, Brussels and Washington agreed to a ceasefire in a long-standing separate trade dispute between Airbus and Boeing, but were unable to reach a permanent solution.
In some cases, European officials simply have bruised ego. Having carried the torch of multilateralism during the Trump years, and having made the first serious policy towards net zero emissions and taxing the digital giants – they are frustrated to see Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry making global headlines for his climate diplomacy, and annoyed that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sealed a G-7 deal on a global minimum corporate tax rate before the EU reached internal consensus on the issue.
Officials fear that without more stringent and binding national measures on climate ceilings, all good rhetoric will be devalued. “It’s easy to come up with climate targets, but without tying them to financial consequences through an emissions trading system, what does the target mean? said a senior EU official, who requested anonymity. “In the EU, countries can be fined if they don’t meet their climate targets. Biden is committed to multilateralism, but will they put their money where they say it?
When it comes to finalizing a global floor of 15% for corporate tax, Europe is the problem. Several governments with lowest corporate tax rates today, including Hungary, Cyprus and Ireland – Biden’s ancestral homeland and theoretically America’s greatest ally in the EU – are resistant to the G-7 plan. Ireland remains committed to its corporate tax rate of 12.5, and for Paschal Donohoe, Irish Minister of Finance, the fight is far from over.
Play well with friends
But some former European and American officials believe it is time for Europe to step out of its comfort zone of criticizing Washington and embracing pragmatic cooperation with Biden.
Stefano Stefanini, former Italian ambassador to NATO, said Biden had mapped out a clear path for engagement. “As always, Europeans get nervous when faced with a proactive United States,” he said. Former President Donald Trump paradoxically left Europeans to operate in their comfort zone: “lecture the Americans”. Now Europe must show where it wants to take the relationship: “Biden’s next trip is help for Europe. It’s up to us to catch it, ”he said.
Former Ambassador Dan Baer, who served as the Obama administration’s envoy to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, agrees: “The question for Europe is, now that you have someone who wants to do real business with you, can you put someone across the way to do the deal?
“That ‘how can we trust you’ line is just an excuse not to dive in,” Baer said, adding that European leaders who have turned their noses on Trump “must show that cooperation can pay off. “.
“Of course, Trump or Trumpism could return, but Marine Le Pen could also be France’s next president,” Stefanini said. “If Truman had thought ‘and Hitlerism would return’, the Marshall Plan would never have happened” in the aftermath of World War II, he added.
Overall, European officials expressed gratitude that Biden’s first overseas trip centered on a series of European summits, and diplomats stationed in Washington said they appreciated the return of a stable political process in Washington.
“In Sweden we like predictability and we have it again. Under Trump, when we were talking to a person at one level, it could be canceled an hour later by someone else, ”a senior Swedish diplomat said.
Getting to know China
Predictable or not, it has not escaped the notice that Biden has yet to invest in European diplomatic personnel: the Indo-Pacific team is the largest political unit of the National Security Council and the residences of America’s American ambassadors in Europe. remain empty.
These choices in Washington have sharpened awareness in European capitals that the strength of their relationship with Biden will significantly depend on their cooperation with the administration’s efforts to curb China.
But London and Brussels are still struggling to sort out their own approaches with China, let alone coordinate with Washington.
Brussels undermined its credibility in Washington by rushing to sign an investment deal with Beijing – which quickly collapsed – before Biden’s inauguration. Meanwhile, London oscillates between echoing American concerns and flattering Beijing. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described himself as “fervently Sinophile” in February and chose not to match a US declaration of Uyghur genocide.