EU should work harder to foil US dis­rup­tive poli­cies

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - Chen Wei­hua The au­thor is the chief of China Daily EU Bu­reau based in Brus­sels. chen­wei­hua@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Af­ter learn­ing that my new as­sign­ment is to cover the Eu­ro­pean Union, an econ­o­mist friend, who holds Dutch and US dual cit­i­zen­ship, told me that the EU, with all its cur­rent prob­lems and un­cer­tain­ties, re­mains one of the more hope­ful and pos­i­tive po­lit­i­cal forces in to­day’s bro­ken world.

That was my hope, too, when I landed in Brus­sels on Wed­nes­day. The bor­der con­trol and cus­toms of­fi­cers at the air­port were very friendly and ef­fi­cient, dis­prov­ing fre­quent com­plaints about EU in­ef­fi­ciency.

The lo­cal weather, which I had also heard a lot about be­fore com­ing to Brus­sels, changed from beau­ti­ful fall sun­shine in the morn­ing to strong winds and rain in the af­ter­noon — syn­ony­mous with the world we are liv­ing in. I was think­ing about head­ing to Paris this week­end to cover a pos­si­ble meet­ing be­tween US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, who will be among many world lead­ers at­tend­ing an event in Paris to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War I.

I am no longer sure about the trip, though, af­ter Trump said on Wed­nes­day that he would not meet Putin this week­end, con­tra­dict­ing the mes­sage from Moscow.

The Trump-Putin sum­mit in Helsinki in July was a pos­i­tive step to­ward im­prov­ing re­la­tions be­tween the world’s two largest nu­clear pow­ers. But the new US sanc­tions against Rus­sia that fol­lowed are a great leap back­ward in US-Rus­sia ties — as is Trump’s threat to pull the US out of 1987 In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nu­clear Forces Treaty, if it were to be­come re­al­ity.

The EU, which is at the heart of the treaty, is op­posed to Trump’s move, and has urged the US and Rus­sia to re­main en­gaged in con­struc­tive di­a­logue to pre­serve the treaty. And it warned that a new arms race would ben­e­fit no one; on the con­trary, it would cause even more in­sta­bil­ity.

The EU has also lashed out at the US for re-im­pos­ing full sanc­tions on Iran, ef­fec­tive on Nov 4, fol­low­ing Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw Wash­ing­ton from the 2015 Iran nu­clear deal.

In stark con­trast to the US move, French Econ­omy and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bruno Le Maire re­it­er­ated the plan for a spe­cial fi­nan­cial chan­nel, known as Spe­cial Pur­pose Ve­hi­cle, to con­tinue EU-Iran trade and main­tain the EU’s eco­nomic sovereignty.

Also, he em­pha­sized that “Eu­rope re­fuses to al­low the US to be the trade po­lice­man of the world.” And Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas said on Wed­nes­day that Eu­rope must re­spond to Trump’s “Amer­ica first” agenda of trade pro­tec­tion­ism and uni­lat­eral diplo­macy with “Eu­rope United”.

Ad­vo­cat­ing an EU pay­ment sys­tem in­de­pen­dent of the US, in or­der to save the Iran nu­clear deal, Maas said Eu­rope should form a “coun­ter­weight” to the US when­ever Wash­ing­ton “crosses red lines”. Writ­ing in the Ger­man news­pa­per Han­dels­blatt, Maas said: “Sin­gle-hand­edly, we will fail in this task. The main goal of our for­eign pol­icy is there­fore to build a sovereign, strong Eu­rope.”

Back in July, the EU and Ja­pan inked their free trade agree­ment send­ing a clear mes­sage about their trade in­ten­tions to Trump at a time when he im­posed high tar­iffs on im­ports from the US’ ma­jor trade part­ners. Although the EU faces many tough chal­lenges of its own, such as mi­gra­tion, Brexit and grow­ing pop­ulism in some mem­ber states, it has proved to be a ra­tio­nal and im­por­tant force on global is­sues in con­trast to the US. Thanks to Trump’s “Amer­ica first” pol­icy, the US has been quit­ting in­ter­na­tional treaties, ne­glect­ing its obli­ga­tions, abus­ing its su­per­power sta­tus and act­ing uni­lat­er­ally and dis­rup­tively.

So Brus­sels has to work even harder to prove it no longer dances to Wash­ing­ton’s tune.

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