Minutes after US elections results were announced, a disappointed US Ambassador to the EU said “politics as usual doesn’t work” anymore, underscoring the need to find a language that connects with people “not only with their minds but also with their hearts”.
Against the predictions of opinion polls, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States on Wednesday (9 November), taking mainstream politicians by surprise as they took stock of results.
“Clearly Trump has tapped into something important and we need to understand what that is. I would like to see the moderate between the left and the right speak out not just basing themselves on facts, but speaking with passion, because that is missing,” said Gardner, speaking to a small group of reporters.
Political and business elites have failed to come up with a vision of the world that connects with the people, the envoy insisted.
“I have been on the road for two and half years now trying to promote and defend a free trade agreement,” he said referring to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. “Unfortunately, I have seen that when we were showing up with facts, opponents were showing up with passion. In this atmosphere, passion wins.”
Fears that the US elections results could derail EU-US relations have been palpable at the election event organised by the US diplomatic missions to Belgium, NATO and the EU.
In his election campaign, Trump promised to implement big changes in the relations between the US and Europe.
If implemented, Trump’s election will have enormous consequences in the field of security and trade. More American nationalism and protectionism will directly affect Europe
But Gardner tried to be reassuring. “This relationship has been important regardless the change of administration. For a good reason. Who are you going to call when you need to deal with critical issues? It will be Europe,” he said identifying both member states and EU institutions.
Trade in limbo
Some believe that the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is likely to stall because Trump plans to overhaul the global free trade system.
The Republican candidate’s trade adviser Dan DiMicco has insisted during the campaign that America should strike a trade deal with Britain, ahead of the EU.
The US envoy said that TTIP remains important for economic, but mainly for geopolitical reasons. “This is about the P for partnership in TTIP,” he said.
“Clearly one of the keywords in our election but also in the upcoming European elections is fairness. People want to have the feeling that they are participating in the benefits of globalisation and free trade,” Gardner insisted.
“Together the US and the EU have a challenge in rethinking how we convince more people that free trade is an opportunity, rather than risk. We need to look at trade adjustment systems, take a look at trade defence mechanisms and think even harder at multinationals tax evasion,” Gardner added.
“Unless we address that issue we are going to have a real hard time with trade agreements,” he stated.
EU should show unity
Trump sparked alarm across Europe when he threatened to pull the United States out of NATO, slamming it as “obsolete” alliance that costs America a fortune.
Speaking at the US election event, analyst Daniel Gros from the Centre for European Policy Studies, said that Europe should take the opportunity to show it remains the standard bearer of human rights, as Americans are going in the opposite position.
“In Europe, we need to give the sign that we stick together and that we are also thinking of our defence and security,” he added, saying that would require a massive rethinking.
Ironically without the UK it is much more possible now to boost European defence capabilities. “With Trump and Putin, that is necessary,”Gros insisted.
Asked whether EU leaders criticised to be slow to tackle the economic crisis or the refugee influx from Syria, could react quickly now on defence, Gros insisted it was not a question of time but consistency.
“This cannot be done in a hurry, but you need to indicate to German and French voters counter ideas of a Europe that takes care of its own security,” he added, urging EU leaders should unite more now that the winds are turning.
In a letter, European Council President Donald Tusk invited Trump for an early summit to chart EU-US relations for the next four years.