One year ago, the American public elected in Donald Trump a president who painted international trade not as a generator of U.S. prosperity and a multiplier of its national interest, but as a set of bargains sapping the U.S. of jobs, prosperity, and power. As one of the U.S.’ major trading partners, this could have consequences for the EU as well. The upcoming NAFTA renegotiations will be a good indicator of how the Trump administration would approach a trade negotiation with the EU. If the Union is serious about its long-term commitment to multilateralism, cooperation on the nuts and bolts of trade policy with the U.S. will need to be part of the order of the day. There are several possible ways to go about this:
- Reviving the stalled TTIP negotiations, perhaps under a new name and with new content.
- Finding overlapping interests that can provide the basis for case-by-case policy cooperation, especially on issues that either directly or indirectly involve China (screening of foreign investment, China’s non-market economy status in the WTO, intellectual property, trade defense instruments like anti-dumping and countervailing duties, or the role of state-owned enterprises in international trade).
- The U.S. administration will need to move beyond a focus on eliminating unfairness that it believes is built into existing trade arrangements to a more forward-looking approach.
- The EU, for its part, will need to overcome any hesitations it has about cooperating with a US administration that does not appear to share its core trade-policy convictions.