German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Vice President Joe Biden in 2015.
CHRISTIAN STACHE | AFP | Getty Images
President-elect Joe Biden’s signal about a shift in America’s foreign policy goals was welcome news in Berlin, where German officials have been worried about tariffs for the past four years.
Biden said he would turn away from President Donald Trump’s “America First” strategy towards an outward-looking US that seems eager to lead, and embrace his global allies once again.
“America is back – we are at the top of the table again,” Biden told NBC News in his first interview since being inaugurated as the next president.
“I have spoken with more than 20 world leaders and they are delighted and somewhat excited that America will reaffirm its role in the world and become a coalition builder,” he added.
Europe must have breathed a sigh of relief over Biden’s election victory, after having endured four difficult years with the Trump administration, apparently poised to impose tariffs on European auto imports, a move that would deal a blow to the region’s auto industry and particularly hit German auto exporters. .
German Chancellor Angela Merkel “very warmly” welcomed Biden’s victory, acknowledging that her country needs to take more responsibility for the transatlantic partnership. “America is and will remain our closest ally, but it expects a lot more from us – and rightly so,” Merkel said on November 9, adding that Germany was “working on it.”
Relief at Biden’s election is spreading in the German Parliament, with officials seeing Biden as an opportunity to reset relations.
“We are relieved that the (election) results are as they are,” Peter Beyer, a politician in the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and coordinator of transatlantic cooperation within the government, told CNBC last week.
“We are looking forward to what some call a fresh start, a reset in transatlantic relations. One thing I can say for sure is that we will have better communication, whereas Donald Trump treats his allies almost at times like enemies. . “
Biden’s win has reignited hopes for a US-EU trade agreement after his previous attempt to reach such an agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), ended in failure in 2016 after three years of negotiations.
European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen warned that a new approach to trade was needed, saying that the EU should take the initiative to build bridges with the US “We know that we cannot turn back time. Not in trade, not in TTIP,” von der Leyen said a few weeks ago in a speech at the EU ambassadors’ conference.
“We can’t get back to the exact same agenda we had five years ago. We can’t fall into that trap. We need a new approach. Because the world has changed and so has the United States and so has Europe.”
Beyer agrees that since “trade is a major issue across the Atlantic, we shouldn’t waste time dreaming about transatlantic nostalgia, the timing of TTIP either doesn’t come true or come true.”
“Joe Biden has said he will do a ‘stock taking’ due to the competitiveness of the United States so it will take some time until he will turn to the negotiating table with the Europeans. At that point, we need to rewrite our wording on the proposal from the European side. , and make new proposals that are realistic and ambitious, “he said.
The Trump administration has been aggressive in addressing trade imbalances between the US and other global economies such as China and Europe, imposing billions of import tariffs on exports from both.
However, the Biden presidency is unlikely to completely remove pressure from Europe on trade, and there may be bones of contention as well as points of common interest, such as fighting China’s growing economic and political power, a country Beyer calls a “geo challenge. -politics and geo-economics of our time. “
“I expect there will still be some tensions over trade and economic policy between Germany and the US,” Andrew Kenningham, chief European economist at Capital Economics, told CNBC. “The EU has plans to regulate and tax more strictly especially US technology companies such as Amazon and Google etc. And annual trade disputes such as between Boeing and Airbus will not go away,” he said.
“However, the end of the Trump administration eliminates some tail risk for at least the next few years. In particular, it is possible that Trump will follow through on his threat to impose tariffs on EU auto exports,” he said.
However, under Biden, the expected return “to a more traditional US international economic policy would be very welcome in Germany,” Kenningham said. “In terms of policy, Germany is very committed to multilateral organization and cooperation … and is also very much against protectionist policies.”
“Even so, the direct economic impact of the Biden presidency on the German economy will be small. Trump’s trade war is targeted primarily at Mexico (initially) and China. The only significant tariffs in the EU are on steel and aluminum, the impact of those in Germany is minor.”