German chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany is taking a ‘pragmatic’ approach to its relationship with the US following the election of Donald Trump. Photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images
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Transatlantic trade deal ‘not realistic’ under Trump, German official says
Official says there is no hope for TTIP deal following US election and lays out ‘pragmatic’ plans for continuing US-German relationship
Hopes of a transatlantic trade deal have been abandoned following Donald Trump’s election to the US presidency, a senior German official said on Tuesday.
Speaking as Barack Obama flew to Berlin for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, as part of his last foreign trip as president, the official declared the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as good as dead, after three years of negotiations between the US and the EU.
“We don’t harbour any hopes of a transatlantic trade deal,” the official said. “That’s not realistic. We just hope we don’t fall back into a new trade war.”
If it had been completed, the TTIP would have led to a drastic reduction in transatlantic trade tariffs and the removal of barriers to investment. Although it was not much mentioned specifically in the course of the campaign, Trump took a determined stand against existing and proposed multilateral trade agreements, saying he could negotiate more favourable deals bilaterally with national capitals.
The TTIP has also faced significant opposition in Europe, largely on the grounds that it could infringe consumers’ and citizens’ rights in favour of corporations.
Following his shock election victory, Merkel sent a letter to Trump offering “close cooperation” on the basis of “common values”, which she listed as “democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin colour, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views”.
Merkel and Obama developed a close working relationship and the German government sees his choice of Berlin as his final European stop on his valedictory tour as a testament to that personal bond and to Germany’s status as a bastion of relative stability on a turbulent continent. Before leaving, Obama said the chancellor had “probably been my closest international partner these past eight years”.
German officials insist they will not pre-judge a Trump presidency based on his campaign rhetoric and will instead wait to watch his appointments and his actions in office.
“We are in a new mode. We are being professional. constrained and pragmatic. It’s vital for transatlantic relations to succeed,” the senior official said.
Merkel called Trump on Friday and the two leaders had what the official described as a “very friendly” conversation. During the transition, Berlin will seek to send a variety of messages to the emerging Trump team about transatlantic and global stability.
The Germans will argue strongly against abandoning last year’s multilateral deal with Iran, in which Tehran accepted strict curbs on its nuclear programme in return for relief from sanctions. In the first presidential debate in September, Trump called it “one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history”.
The German official said Berlin was seeking to convey the ramifications of the US walking away from the agreement.
“When we speak to his key people we say we see it as a plus to our security, not a minus. It is not a bilateral deal – it was multilateral deal endorsed by a UN security council resolution,” the official said. “If the US abrogates the deal, it will have to deal with the consequences.”
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who is one of Trump’s closest advisers and tipped as a possible secretary of state, said on Wednesday that while the president-elect would seek to renegotiate the nuclear deal eventually, it would not be first on a Trump administration’s foreign policy to-do list.
“I think you have to set priorities. So if the priority is eliminating Isis, maybe you put that off a little bit,” Giuliani said at a talk organised by the Wall Street Journal. “You get rid of Isis [Islamic State] first and you go back to that [the Iran deal], because Isis, short-term, I believe, is the greatest danger.”
On the subject of Russia, Berlin is expected to encourage Trump’s promise to forge a better relationship with Moscow, but will urge him to learn from Merkel’s extensive experience of dealing with Vladimir Putin, and make sure that dialogue is accompanied by pressure and that better bilateral ties are not at the expense of eastern European security.
“Our message would be it makes a lot of sense to talk to Putin, but in the spirt of resolving a pressing crisis in the Ukraine and about assuring east European security,” the German official said.
Berlin will also press the incoming administration to downgrade the Trump’s ties to rightwing European parties opposed to the EU.
“Europeans are aware the responsibility for the cohesion, resilience, vitality and viability of the European Union rests on their own shoulders. That is really sinking it,” the official said, but he added that the US could no longer take European stability for granted.
“In the past, this was an area you didn’t have to worry about. You had to worry about the Middle East and other areas of the world, but not Europe,” he said. “Once the EU as a peace project, as a guarantor of stability, is threatened, you will have a problem as a world power. You have an interest that it is a stable partner. That is a message I hope will resonate with the new administration.”
source : The Guardian