EU Defies Trump on Iran Deal and Trade

French president Emmanuel Macron, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and German chancellor Angela Merkel speak at a NATO summit in Brussels, May 25, 2017
French president Emmanuel Macron, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and German chancellor Angela Merkel speak at a NATO summit in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (NATO)

EU leaders have closed ranks against the unilateralism of American president Donald Trump, announcing on the eve of a summit in Bulgaria that:

  • They will stay in the Iran nuclear deal so long as Iran abides by its terms. That means European companies will — for now — be able to continue doing business with Iran.
  • They are willing to start trade negotiations provided the United States exempt the EU from aluminum and steel tariffs.

Both decisions set Europe on a collision course with its ally. Read more “EU Defies Trump on Iran Deal and Trade”

Make-or-Break Moment for the Atlantic Alliance

Paolo Gentiloni, Mariano Rajoy, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte, the leaders of Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, deliver a joint news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2017
Paolo Gentiloni, Mariano Rajoy, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte, the leaders of Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, deliver a joint news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2017 (La Moncloa)

This week could be a make-or-break moment for the Atlantic alliance. Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has put European leaders on the spot.

  • On Tuesday, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom — the thee European countries in the agreement — meet with Mohammad Javad Zarif, their Iranian counterpart.
  • On Wednesday, national leaders are due to discuss the issue over dinner on the eve of an EU summit in Sofia. Read more “Make-or-Break Moment for the Atlantic Alliance”

Europe Can Stand Up to American Threats on Iran

Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017
Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017 (DoD/Dominique Pineiro)

Leonid Bershidsky is optimistic the EU can stand up to American threats and continue doing business with Iran. He writes for Bloomberg that the stakes are higher than President Donald Trump seems to realize:

With its influence on SWIFT, the Brussels-based payment-facilitation system, and its trade power, the EU is capable of blunting US sanctions. If they prove ineffective, and Iranians merely rally around their government as Russians have done in the face of American restrictions, the US may be exposed as less of a fearsome global policeman than Trump would like it to be.

Read more “Europe Can Stand Up to American Threats on Iran”

Trump Divides West on Iran

American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017
American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

President Donald Trump is expected to announce today that he will pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, despite pleas from allies to remain in it.

The 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers lifted economic sanctions on the country in return for strict controls on its nuclear program. Read more “Trump Divides West on Iran”

Europe Doesn’t Know How to Handle Trump, Macron Runs Tight Operation

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17, 2017
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Stephen Walt argues in Foreign Policy that the diplomatic crisis around the Iran nuclear deal shows European leaders don’t know how to handle an American bully:

[I]nstead of getting tough with Trump and warning him that Europe would both stick to the deal and defy any subsequent US effort to impose secondary sanctions on them, [France, Germany and the United Kingdom] chose to mollify and flatter Trump instead.

It seems to no avail.

It pains me to admit it, but Walt has a point:

[T]he European response to Trump shows how successfully the United States has tamed and subordinated the former great powers that once dominated world politics. After seventy-plus years of letting Uncle Sam run the show, European leaders can barely think in strategic terms, let alone act in a tough-minded fashion when they are dealing with the United States.

I do think this is slowly changing. Trump is a wakeup call. The EU is rushing new trade agreements with Japan and Mexico. France is leading efforts to deepen European defense cooperation outside NATO. The Balts and Scandinavians are remilitarizing.

But deferring to America is a hard habit to kick. Read more “Europe Doesn’t Know How to Handle Trump, Macron Runs Tight Operation”

Locating the “Real” Country, Putting Germany First and NATO Solidarity

The town of American Fork in Utah
The town of American Fork in Utah (Unsplash/Colby Thomas)

Andrew Sullivan is always worth reading, but, in the case of his latest column, I do think Noah Smith has a point and Sullivan falls into the trap of conflating Brexit and Donald Trump voters with “real England” and “real America”.

This is a mistake conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic make. The small towns and countryside aren’t the “real” country. They’re half the country. Or, in the case of Trumpists, a third of the country. Their views deserve to be taken seriously, but so do those of big-city liberals.

Or as Smith puts it:

What we should NOT do is elevate one segment of the populace to Special Real American status, simply because they fit a certain classic stereotype or because they are more intolerant and angry than the rest.

Related to this discussion is Nabila Ramdani’s argument in UnHerd for retiring the label “Gaullist” in France. (Charles de Gaulle is to French politics what Ronald Reagan is to American conservatism.)

De Gaulle’s base consisted of white, Roman Catholic conservatives who had a quasi-mystical faith in their rural nation. There was no place in Gaullism for the millions of immigrants from France’s former colonies, nor did it adapt to globalization and the spread of Anglo-Saxon culture.

Emmanuel Macron’s project is a belated attempt to reconcile these facets of modern France and it meets strong resistance in La France profonde. Read more “Locating the “Real” Country, Putting Germany First and NATO Solidarity”

Rutte Cornered on Tax Cut, Why France and Germany Treat Trump Differently

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is received by Jan Peumans, the speakers of the Flemish parliament, in Brussels, October 15, 2015
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is received by Jan Peumans, the speakers of the Flemish parliament, in Brussels, October 15, 2015 (Vlaams Parlement)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is in trouble.

When his latest government, a coalition of Christian and liberal parties, came to power in October, he claimed there was no paperwork to support its contention that the Netherlands needed to eliminate dividend tax altogether in order to remain competitive. Now it turns out the Finance Ministry did write a series of memos on the topic — and doubted the tax played a major role in multinationals’ decisionmaking.

The Finance Ministry produces a lot of memos when political parties are negotiating to form a government, so it is possible that Rutte didn’t see this one.

Except this was by far the most controversial policy of the new government. None of the governing parties had promised to cut dividend tax in their manifestos. There had been no public debate about it.

The suspicion in The Hague is that Rutte’s former employer, Unilever, and Royal Dutch Shell lobbied to get the tax removed.

Opposition parties have already called on Rutte to step down. That is unlikely. Prime minister since 2010, Rutte has a knack for talking his way out of problems and the ruling parties have no incentive to force him out. Read more “Rutte Cornered on Tax Cut, Why France and Germany Treat Trump Differently”

Merkel Eclipsed by Macron, Mistaking Trump’s Lies for Authenticity

Donald Trump Emmanuel Macron
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Emmanuel Macron of France inspect an honor guard in Paris, July 13, 2017 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Der Spiegel laments that Angela Merkel is allowing Emmanuel Macron to take the lead in Europe.

The left-leaning weekly has complained for years that Merkel isn’t bold and visionary enough, but they have a point this time: Macron has seduced both eurocrats in Brussels and Donald Trump in Washington while Merkel’s authority in Berlin has been significantly reduced by a disappointing election result in September.

Also read Nicholas Vinocur in Politico on the French leader’s transatlantic ambitions:

Macron is determined to restore France’s greatness and Trump’s friendship elevates Paris as a nuclear power with a seat on the United Nations Security Council at a time when Britain — usually Washington’s preferred ally — is sidelined by the Brexit process.

Read more “Merkel Eclipsed by Macron, Mistaking Trump’s Lies for Authenticity”

Macron’s Priorities for Trump Meeting, Tillerson’s Disastrous Tenure at State

Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017
Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017 (DoD/Dominique Pineiro)

Emmanuel Macron is due to meet his American counterpart, Donald Trump, in Washington DC next week. Erik Brattberg and Philippe Le Corre write in The National Interest that he will have four priorities:

  1. Staking out a common stance on Syria.
  2. Preserving European exemptions from Trump’s tariffs by pushing for a transatlantic trade agreement.
  3. Convincing Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.
  4. Changing Trump’s mind on climate change.

#1 seems doable. #2, who knows? Signs for #3 are ominous. White House officials have been leaking to reporters that, this time, Trump is serious about blowing up the nuclear agreement. #4 seems impossible. Read more “Macron’s Priorities for Trump Meeting, Tillerson’s Disastrous Tenure at State”

Trump Launches Trade War, Berlusconi Confirms Tajani Candidacy

American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017
American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Against the advice of literally all but two of his advisors, American president Donald Trump has announced tariffs on aluminum and steel of 10 and 25 percent, respectively.

The tariffs are not in effect yet, but, citing national-security concerns, the president does have the authority to impose them unilaterally.

The European Commission, which is responsible for EU trade policy, quickly condemned the “blatant intervention to protect US domestic industry” and said it would present countermeasures in a matter of days.

Remember when we were talking about a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership only a few years ago?

Politico has more on the challenge to Europe. Also read my story from July about Trump’s obsession with dying industries at the expense of retail and tech. Read more “Trump Launches Trade War, Berlusconi Confirms Tajani Candidacy”