Obama II and Europe

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With stratospheric popularity levels in Europe, Barack Obama - who won a second term last night - is expected to make a renewed commitment to energising the world economy by re-launching transatlantic trade relations, US analysts say. EurActiv reports from Washington.

 

 

After 17-month, $2-billion (€1.5-billion) campaign, Obama clinched a second term, defeating his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

With results in from most states, America's first black president easily secured the 270 votes in the electoral college needed to win the race. Obama held a narrow lead in the popular vote.

Before he made his acceptance speech, Obama’s official Twitter account quickly posted: “This happened because of you. Thank you.”

Obama expected to re-launch US-EU trade relations

Obama will be tested immediately, with a "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and budget cuts looming on 1 January.

He also will continue to put pressure on Europe to solve its eurozone crisis which also hurts the US economy – something European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso seized on in congratulating Obama on his re-election.

“Creation of growth and jobs remains a priority for both the US and the EU and we will continue to work with President Obama to unlock the unparalleled potential of the transatlantic market,” the EU leaders said in a joint statement.

“We are also ready to continue our intense cooperation in foreign policy issues and in the promotion of our common values. We look forward to meeting President Obama at an early date in order to reconfirm our priorities and provide renewed impetus to our joint action.”

There was reciprocity in Brussels, where the US ambassador to the EU, William E. Kennard hailed the EU as "our closest ally on the planet" at a US embassy party.

Hi colleague, Howard Gutman, the US ambassador to Belgium spoke of Washington's increasing engagement with the rest of the world under Obama, noting that the world had begun "to doubt our words and suspect our deeds" under the Bush administration.

On climate change in particular, "the US has become part of the solution and not the problem," he said. 

Tyson Barker of the Bertelsmann Foundation in Washington said Obama should make the case, more publicly, for deeper, more resolute economic integration and coordinated fiscal expansion with the old continent in order to kick-start the US economy.

He will continue to clash with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach to eurozone crisis management while receiving kudos from Paris, Rome, Madrid and the European Central Bank (ECB), said Barker, Bertelsmann’s director of Transatlantic Relations.

As a counterweight to his eurozone crisis policy, Obama however seems poised to offer renewed commitment to transatlantic trade, added Barker.

Often overlooked even in domestic discussions on trade and investment, a transatlantic free-trade agreement has been the subject of quiet discussions between the administration and the European Commission.

The joint High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth, set up by EU and US leaders at the EU-US summit in November 2011, is expected to release a final report on the feasibility of an ambitious trade agreement by the end of the year.

Companies on both sides of the Atlantic have urged EU and US policymakers to negotiate a trade and investment agreement that not only benefits their economies, but serves as a model for the rest of the world.

>> Read: EU, US companies push for 'realistic' transatlantic trade deal

It’s the economy, Mr President

America’s economic woes were indeed are the centre of the campaign.

Obama defeated Romney in a series of key swing states – including struggling Ohio and Pennsylvania - despite a weak economic recovery and persistent high unemployment.

The US electorate was split along partisan lines over a question that has driven much of the campaign debate: whether it was Obama or his predecessor, George W. Bush, who bore the most responsibility for the nation’s economic challenges. Surveys showed that roughly half of independent voters said that Bush should be held responsible.

While four years ago Obama was elected by a broad coalition of voters, the national electorate this time appeared to have withdrawn to its more traditional demographic borders, according to polls conducted by Edison Research. Obama’s coalition included support from blacks, Hispanics, women, those under 30, trade unionist, gay men and lesbians, and Jews.

Romney’s support spanned across whites, men, older people, high-income voters, evangelical Christians, those from suburban and rural areas, and Tea Party supporters – the latter had resisted him through the primaries but fully embraced him by election day.

Republicans to fight higher taxes

Obama will face the start of a second term with a familiar divide in Congress: a Republican-controlled House and a Democrat majority in the Senate.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner declared on election night that his party would not support higher taxes.

Obama, however, repeated on the campaign trail that he would push for higher taxes on the wealthy as a way to shrinking a choking debt and to steer money towards the programmes he wants.

He will try to land a massive financial deficit-cutting deal with Congress in the coming months and then move on to an immigration overhaul, tax reform and other bipartisan dreams.

That means that in order to avoid the same gridlock of the past two years, Obama will have to work towards compromises.

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