Trump triumphs, Europe shocked Fraser Cameron is the Director of the EU-Asia Centre and a former EU official Like an earthquake Europe is still struggling with the aftershock of the Trump election victory. Like the chattering classes inside the Beltway, European chancelleries and the Brussels bubble simply could not believe that Trump, someone with no previous political experience, could defeat a seasoned pro like Clinton. They had all been told by their embassies in Washington that Clinton was a certainty. She was someone they knew, someone who knew Europe and thus there would be a strong degree of continuity in US foreign policy. Trump, however, is unknown to EU leaders and has ties to far right-wing parties such as UKIP and the Front National rather than mainstream European parties that traditionally form governments. Throughout Europe there is widespread concern at what Trump’s victory will mean for transatlantic relations, the multilateral system and the rise of populism. Reactions While shocked EU leaders decided to be cautious in their messages of congratulations. Presidents Tusk and Juncker reminded Trump of the common history and shared values between Europe and America and emphasised the importance of working together on trade, terrorism, climate change, and Russia. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherhini said that the depth of the transatlantic relationship ‘went beyond temporary changes in the political landscape’ while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that given the scale of the security challenges ‘this is no time to question the value of the partnership between Europe and the United States.’ Angela Merkel had been strongly criticised by Trump during the campaign describing her policies on refugees as a ‘catastrophe.’ The German chancellor now laid out a list of basic principles which were a pre-condition for cooperation with Trump – ‘democracy, freedom, respect for the law and for human dignity irrespective of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political conviction.’ Francois Hollande who had said that Trump ‘made him feel sick’ said that Trump’s victory ‘opens a period of uncertainty.’ The Dutch and Belgian PMs sent neutral messages of congratulation despite the negative remarks Trump had made about their countries. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the only exception to this EU trend stating that DT’s victory was ‘fantastic news.’ British PM Theresa May had also been critical of Trump in the past as have her closest advisors. But in her phone call with Trump a few days after his election she emphasised the historic ‘special relationship’ and reminded him of the close ties between the US and UK on trade, security and defence. Trump invited May to visit him ‘in the near future’ and stated that the UK would be at the front, not the back, of the queue for a new trade deal when it left the EU. UK-US relations will not be easy, however, as Trump’s views on Russia, free trade and climate change are totally different from that of Britain. Trump’s relationship with UKIP chair, Nigel Farage, further complicates matters for the UK. Farage, who spoke at one of Trump’s campaign rallies, was the first European politician to meet Trump after the election. In a staggering breach of protocol, Trump later tweeted that Farage would make a great UK ambassador to the US – a message that caused great annoyance in London. Russia was of course delighted with Trump’s victory. Putin said that ‘it was not our fault that Russian-American relations are in such a poor state. But Russia wants and is ready to restore full-fledged relations with the United States.’ Implications Behind the scenes EU leaders and their officials are trying to assess what are the implications of Trump’s victory in various policy areas. During the campaign Trump questioned the usefulness of NATO, the American alliances with Asia, free trade and climate change. In the days after his victory Trump started to distance himself from some of these promises. He said he was not going to ‘lock up Hillary,’ not going to repeal Obamacare, and not pull the US out of any alliance commitments. There is little doubt that Trump will follow a more realist foreign policy than the liberal internationalist approach of the Obama administration, an approach that most EU leaders preferred. Mogherini called a special meeting of foreign ministers on 13 November to discuss the possible impact of a Trump administration on the major issues – Russia, Syria, Iran, climate change. One minister said that ‘EU foreign policy was now in damage limitation mode’. He feared that Trump might be willing to work with Putin and Bashar al-Assad, to defeat Islamic terrorism, at the expense of moderate Syrian forces. Another warned that Trump’s support for other authoritarian leaders including Putin, Duterte and Erdoğan would be ‘very worrying’ for the EU. It was very likely that the US would now stop promoting human rights and democracy which would place an additional burden on the EU. Certainly Trump will not be an easy partner for the EU about which he knows almost nothing. He prefers dealing with national capitals to any international bureaucracy. The same goes for most of his likely foreign policy team. EU officials who have spoken with Trump advisors report that they are contemptuous of multilateral institutions and ignorant on many key issues. Trump himself has little background or experience in foreign and security policy. He will be severely handicapped by the refusal of the top hundred republican experts to serve in his administration. He is very much an American nationalist. He talked of pulling the US out of the climate change agreement and tearing up the Iran nuclear deal. But in office he may be content with some minor changes. Although he has never met Putin several of his associates have and he has talked favourably about Putin as a strong leader. But whether this translates into a geo-political deal is difficult to say. He could accept if not recognise that Crimea is part of Russia. But he cannot allow Russia to control Ukraine or menace the Baltic States. On China he has little knowledge and little interest apart from trade. He has criticised China’s unfair trade practices for many years and promised to impose high tariffs on China and name it a currency manipulator. But again campaign rhetoric and action are different. The same applies to his remarks about Korea/Japan and nuclear weapons. This was a threat (similarly with NATO) to pressurise allies to pay more. But he will not reduce the basic military guarantee. One reason for him to maintain the status quo is the presence of many neo-cons and right-wing republicans in his entourage who are stridently anti-communist and who would oppose any moves to cosy up to Putin or weaken US security guarantees to Asian allies as they argue this would only benefit China. Trump has already stated that one campaign pledge will be maintained, an end to US participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is regarded as a major blow to the US pivot to Asia and many Asians are now hedging their bets with China. Speaking at an APEC meeting in Peru, the New Zealand PM, John Keys, jokingly said that the only way to save the landmark trade deal might be to rename it the Trump Pacific Partnership. The Transatlantic trade talks (TTIP) were already on life support but now they can be pronounced dead. Trump has also questioned NAFTA and trade with China which he accused of being a currency manipulator. He castigated all trade deals as ‘unfair to America’ and responsible for the US losing 25 million jobs. In office he will find out just how interconnected the US economy is to the rest of the world and how difficult it will be to re-negotiate trade deals that took years to complete. The Trump team face an immense task as they will need to fill around 4,500 positions within government during the next three months. The most powerful figure is likely to be Vice President-elect Mike Pence, an arch-conservative, who chairs the transition team and will be a strong figure in the White House (like Dick Cheney). Trump’s family will also play a prominent role with three of his children (Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr.) in an extended advisory committee. But tensions will be inevitable and many predict that there will be constant in-fighting between Reince Priebus who will be Trump’s chief of staff and Steve Bannon of Breitbart News who will become chief strategist. Although domestic issues (cutting taxes, reducing immigration and reforming health care) will take priority over foreign policy no US President can avoid taking a lead role in global affairs. How should Europe respond? The biggest concern in Europe is that Trump’s victory will give a huge boost to populist forces throughout the continent still celebrating the unexpected Brexit result in the UK. The far-right expects to do well in the upcoming elections in 2017 in France, the Netherlands and even Germany. The biggest prize would be the Marine Le Pen winning the French elections. It was this fear that led the centre-right to choose the more right-wing Francois Fillon as the candidate most likely to defeat her. Although these elections will preclude the EU taking any big new decisions in 2017 they are already starting to prepare the ground for some important changes. The first field is defence. If the EU wants to get the attention of Trump it will have to earn it, first and foremost by taking more responsibility for its own security. Trump’s campaign threat to stop defending NATO members unless they pulled their weight struck a chord with American voters and Congress. Given what Europeans spend on defence and the number of men and women in uniform it should be able to defend itself. The December European Council will agree modest plans to boost defence cooperation. The second field is trade. If TTIP and TPP are dead then the EU will have to speed up its own trade deals with partners from Mexico to Japan. Given the problems of ratifying the deal with Canada (CETA) this will not be an easy task. But Trade Commissioner Malmström is determined to forge ahead on the bilateral front. She has devised a formula to sidestep the market economy status (MES) dispute with China and hopes to conclude an investment agreement with the Asian giant next year. The third field is economic growth. European leaders understand that they must create more jobs especially to reduce the unacceptable high levels of youth unemployment. But there are still major policy disputes with Merkel continuing to promote austerity against the desire of southern EU members to provide a stronger fiscal stimulus. Finally, Europe has to deal with the increasing range of problems relating to its neighbourhood. There are likely to be fundamental differences in approach with Trump on how to tackle Syria, how to deal with terrorists, how to deal with Russia and possibly Turkey. And there is the continuing problem of how to deal with the flow of refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan. Europe will not be at the top of Trump’s in tray and he will certainly not make Brussels his first overseas trip. There is no one in his entourage who knows anything about the EU. But if he starts to mess with international trade agreements and breaks WTO rules then he may have to take a quick course in EU powers in the trade field and competition policy. And the EU will have to stand up to Trump if he seeks to tear up the agreements on Iran and climate change. One thing is sure – Europe is in for a very bumpy ride with Donald J Trump in the White House.
One thing is sure – Europe is in for a very bumpy ride with Donald J Trump in the White House