Back in March, Brussels and Washington agreed on a ceasefire in a separate protracted Airbus-Boeing trade dispute, but have not been able to reach a permanent solution.
In some cases, European officials have simply destroyed egos. After carrying the torch of multilateralism in the Trump years and having the first serious policy against net-zero emissions and taxation of digital giants – they are frustrated to see President’s climate frieze John Kerry capture global headlines for his climate diplomacy and annoyed that Finance Minister Janet Yellen has closed a G-7 agreement on a global minimum tax rate before the EU reaches internal consensus on the matter.
Officials fear that without the stricter, more binding domestic action on climate change, all good rhetoric will be devalued. “It is easy to set climate goals, but what does the goal mean without linking them to economic consequences through an emissions trading system?”
When it comes to completing a 15 percent global corporate tax floor, Europe is the problem. Several governments with basic corporate tax rates today, including Hungary, Cyprus and Ireland – Biden’s ancestral home and, by the way, America’s strongest ally within the EU – are resistant to the G-7 plan. Ireland remains married to its 12.5 corporation tax rate, and for Paschal Donohoe, Ireland’s finance minister, the battle 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 to criticize Washington and embrace pragmatic cooperation with Biden.
Stefano Stefanini, Italy’s former ambassador to NATO, said Biden had paved the way for engagement. “As always, Europeans get nervous when confronted with a proactive United States,” he said. Former President Donald Trump paradoxically allowed Europeans to operate in their comfort zone: “lecture for Americans.” Now Europe needs to show where it wants to take the relationship: “The city’s upcoming journey is a help to Europe. It is very much 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 Cooperation in Europe, agrees: “The question for Europe is: Now that you have someone who wants to do real business with you, you can ask anyone over the table to do business? ”
“This ‘how can we trust you’ line is just an excuse not to dive in,” Baer said, adding that European leaders who kept their noses up for Trump “must show that cooperation can pay off.”
“Sure, Trump or Trumpism could come back, but Marine Le Pen could also be France’s next president,” Stefanini said. “If Truman had thought ‘what if Hitlerism comes back’, the Marshall Plan would never have happened ‘in the wake of World War II,’ he added.
Overall, European officials expressed gratitude that Biden’s first foreign trip is centered on a series of European summits, and diplomats sent to Washington said they were enjoying the return to a stable policy process in Washington.
“In Sweden, we like predictability, and we have it again. Under Trump, when we talked to one person at a level, it could be overridden an hour later by another, ”said a senior Swedish diplomat.
Getting control of China
Predictably or not, it has not failed to be aware that Biden is not yet investing in European diplomatic staffing: the Indo-Pacific team is the National Security Council’s largest political entity, and Europe’s US ambassadorial residences remain empty.
These elections in Washington have heightened the awareness in European capitals that the strength of their relationship with Biden will largely depend on how much they cooperate with the administration’s efforts to curb China.
But London and Brussels are still struggling to settle their own approaches to China, let alone coordinate with Washington.
Brussels undermined its credibility in Washington by rushing to sign an investment deal with Beijing – which quickly collapsed – in preparation for Biden’s inauguration. Meanwhile, London is jumping between recurring American worries and flattering Beijing. The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described himself as a “fervent sinophile” in February and chose not to match a US statement on a Uyghur genocide.