Between Nationalism and Multilateralism: A Renewed Approach for Transatlantic Economic Engagement

Issue Brief 59

The Ancient Greeks invented the concept of the Golden Mean, and the idea that “the truth lies somewhere in the middle” is a well-rooted one. Given the opposing international economic policies of U.S. nationalism and European Union multilateralism that are contributing to the polarization of transatlantic relations, is there a center ground that the United States and the European Union could jointly occupy?

Yes, but not because these two concepts are equal outliers judged against a commonsense mid-point of policy. Multilateralism has a 75-year record of mitigating trade, currency, environmental, and other economic conflicts through the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the UN, and similar institutions and agreements. Nationalism—and its associated destruction in the twentieth century—gave rise to the postwar multilateral institutions that were created to serve as its antidote. Multilateralism’s performance today may be lackluster (especially in trade policy) but a return to the protectionism and mercantilism of the 1930s would shipwreck the global economy.

These considerations notwithstanding, there is a space that lies between the “America First” nationalism of the Trump administration and a historic allegiance within the EU to multilateralism where policies can be crafted to promote the global economic interests of both sides of the Atlantic. But for this approach to be successful it will be essential that Americans and Europeans first grasp the distinction between liberalism and multilateralism in international economic relations.


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The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

Peter S. Rashish

Senior Fellow; Director, Geoeconomics Program

Peter S. Rashish, who counts over 25 years of experience counseling corporations, think tanks, foundations, and international organizations on transatlantic trade and economic strategy, is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Geoeconomics Program at AICGS. He also writes The Wider Atlantic blog.

Mr. Rashish has served as Vice President for Europe and Eurasia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he spearheaded the Chamber’s advocacy for an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement between the United States and the European Union, which was officially launched as the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” and developed new engagements in the continent’s emerging markets.

Previously, Mr. Rashish was a Senior Advisor for Europe at McLarty Associates, and has held positions as Executive Vice President of the European Institute, on the Paris-based staff of the International Energy Agency, and as a consultant to the World Bank, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Atlantic Council, the Bertelsmann Foundation, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Mr. Rashish has testified on the euro zone and U.S.-European economic relations before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade and the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia and has advised two U.S. presidential campaigns. He has been a member of the faculty at the Salzburg Global Seminar and a speaker at the Aspen Ideas Festival. His commentaries have been published in The New York Times, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The National Interest, and Foreign Policy and he has appeared on PBS, CNBC, CNN, and NPR.

He earned his B.A. from Harvard College and an M.Phil. in international relations from Oxford University. He speaks French, German, Italian, and Spanish.