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« L'Europe se fera dans les crises et elle sera la somme des solutions apportées à ces crises »—Jean Monnet

Trump as President: expected impacts on Europe

_92348663_mediaitem92348660credit: Reuters

 So, the year 2016 never ceases to crush our expectations, and – exactly like on Brexit and the Dutch Referendum, the unthinkable has happened: Donald Trump has won the US presidency. In the wake of the election, it is reasonable to assess what are the possible consequences for Europe in particular. This post is a summary of a short relation I gave tonight at a INET Seminar on the issue. four main possible consequences can be identified.

  • Worsening of trade and investment relations.

To be clear, the trajectory of the trade and investment relationship across the Atlantic was already trending downwards. Not only the TTIP negotiations and ratifications were suspended, but also the Apple ruling and the extra controls imposed by the European Commission on US financial institutions, mirrored by similar actions undertaken by US regulators on European banks, had substantially deteriorated the transatlantic éntente on trade. Now, the clear anti-trade and anti-globalization of Trump is likely not only to kill the TIIP indefinitely, but also to exacerbate outstanding issues; we can expect further strain on European corporations and banks operating in US; the emergence of a generalized rhetoric against foreign products; eventually, we could even witness a “Buy American 2.0” which would considerably undermine high-end exports of Europe to the US. Whether these measures would be mirrored by similar measures on the European side of the Atlantic is unclear, although not unlikely. Anyhow, the idea of the TTIP as “the economic arm of NATO” is basically dead, not least because NATO could be dead too.

  • Security concerns

This bring us to the second issue the impact on Europe’s security environment, which is basically articulated in two elements: the implications for Europe of a US-Russian friendship, and the possible (announced) disengagement of the US from its commitments to European defence. Trump’s fascination with Putin is no mystery. Just after the election, Putin himself has invited the US to a “restart” bilateral relationships in light of new friendship; it is easy to assume that this would involve the ceasing of US sanctions on Russia concerning its war in Ukraine, and the recognition of Crimea as a Russian territory. Both actions would be hardly acceptable for Europe, and yet Europe alone would be unable to stop either of them. European sanctions, alone, are not sufficient to maintain pressure on the Russian economy; and a recognition of Crimea on the US would pave the way for a generalized recognition across the planet, regardless of the European stance on the issue. Therefore, the Trump presidency is likely to handle a definitive victory to Putin on his European policy so far.

This, of course, may be just the beginning. Trump has voiced his mistrust on NATO on several occasions, and refused to state whether the US would maintain their commitment to defend NATO member-states in case of Russian aggression. As a consequence, we expect that the progressive disengagement of the US from Europe would produce an increase in defense spending and cooperation Europe. To be clear, the process already began in the wakes of the Brexit vote, but could possibly accelerate in the near/medium term. It remains to be seen, however, if Europe alone without the US capabilities would ever be able to set up a defence strong enough to credibly deter the threat of a Russian aggression; even if such a goal could be possible in the long term, it surely won’t be achieved in the short term. It follows that a formal US disengagement from Europe, even if contrasted with an acceleration on European defence, would open the door for military adventurism on the Russian side in the short term, as the Kremlin seeks to call the autonomous European defence bluff.

  • Effects on Europe’s Populism

Much less clear are the effects that a Trump presidency may have on European populism. 2017 is a very important electoral year for Europe. Three major European countries have their general election featuring strong Eurosceptic parties: in the Netherlands, which will vote in the Spring, the extreme-right party PVV, headed by Geert Wilders, is currently first in the polls; in France, which will vote in June for the Presidency and the National Assembly, the Front National of Marine Le Pen is also poised to score first on the first turn; in Germany, Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) is forecasted to perform well in the October election. In addition, Italy may be headed to early elections in 2017 as well, in case that the Renzi government collapses in the wakes of a “no” vote in the December 4th Constitutional referendum. On all these elections, Populist parties are forecasted to perform well, arriving in the first 3 positions. The impact of a Trump presidency is however unclear. If he behaves in particularly controversial or crazy way in the first months of his presidency, the public opinion may react against Populism, similarly to the reaction observed in continental Europe in the aftermaths of the Brexit vote. It could also be, however, that Eurosceptic parties will be emboldened and encouraged to take more aggressive stances by Trump’s success, increasing the intensity of their identitarian and sovranist rhetoric, thus polarizing the already-divided political system of Europe even further.

  • Effects on Brexit negotiations

On a similar page, it is unclear how the Trump presidency would impact the process of achieving Brexit. As some may recall, reinforcing NATO as the true “Western” organization, and moving from open “European” trade to true “global” trade were important elements of the official rationale for Brexit. Both cases, however, are now weakened by a Trump presidency, which is forecasted to be hostile to both NATO and global trade. In light of a hard-line Trump presidency, the balance within the UK government may further tip in favour of a “soft” Brexit which would only remove the formal links of membership with the European Union, without severe, however, the substantial policy integration/cooperation on defence and trade. Similarly, in light of a weakening security relationship with the US and in presence of an emboldened and potentially aggressive Russia, the Union would be more willing to compromise with Westminster to keep the UK as close as possible (not least in defence cooperation) to the EU. On the other hand,  Trump could very well instead forge a holy alliance with the Brexiteers. There are several reasons for that: first of all, he would disprove the myth that sees him advocate of a closed, isolationist America. Second, he would secure a decisive ally in Europe. Third, hw would reinforce the notion that his presidency, as much as Brexit, is one of the elements of a change towards a global “nationalist” alliance of countries who cooperate in the common fight against Neoliberism. Once you factor in the disrepect Trump has for his own words and for electoral promises, you might consider that a priority trade agreement between the US and the Brexiting UK isn’t so unlikely after all. Such a development would be, in fact, a great victory for the Brexiting front, at least from a media standpoint, and would probably put the rest of the EU under further stress.



One comment on “Trump as President: expected impacts on Europe

  1. Pingback: Trump Europe

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