Unilateralism a wall between US and EU

China Daily | 作者: Cui Hongjian | 时间: 2018-05-14 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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Ignoring the call of an overwhelming majority of the international community that the United States continue to honor the Iran nuclear deal, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday withdrew the US from the deal and reimposed sanctions on Teheran.


Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during their separate visits to the US, tried to reason with Trump that it was in the interest of Middle East peaceand thus in the interest of Washingtonthat the US stay in the deal. But their efforts had little effect on Trump. The French and German leaders even failed to persuade Trump to rethink his decision to impose 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.


The fact is, despite their troublesome alliance with Washington, some European Union countries changed their "policies" to strengthen relations with the US. For instance, Macron started bilateral talks with the US after Trump made public his discontent with the EU's support for multilateralism and Germany's trade surplus with the US.


Trump went ahead with his unilateral actions, and included the EU on the tariff list "for the sake of US national security". By so doing, he once again undermined international trade rules and hurt the US' European allies, which have huge interests in the US steel and aluminum industry.


Moreover, when Trump described the Iran nuclear deal as "insane" and "ridiculous", some EU countries attached great importance to his remark. Trump has disturbed the balance of power in the Middle East by further strengthening the US' relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel, which could neutralize the EU's efforts to maintain peace in the Middle East. His move will also intensify the refugee crisis and possibly increase terrorist attacks in the EU countries.


Although many EU members differ with the US on several issues, they have cooperated with Washington on many fronts. France, for instance, cooperated with the US to launch air strikes on Syria in April, as it was seeking "mutual value and interest". And the EU increased the pressure on Iran to expand the terms of the nuclear deal.


Several EU members have given in to Washington, and asked it to extend "ally treatment" to them, abandoning in the process international trade rules and compromising the interests of other World Trade Organization members. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire even said that, "there is no reason why the European Union should suffer from a trade war between the United States and China".


In spite of all this, Trump turned a deaf ear to Macron's call that the US stay in the Iran nuclear deal, and Merkel won only a one-month suspension of the tariff on the European steel and aluminum exports to the US.


The EU finds itself in such a precarious position because it did not appropriately respond to the US' new diplomatic policy and became obsessed with self-defense.


Trump's "America First" policy puts the US above the global community disregarding all international rules. It has scant respect for mutual interests of strategy, value and economy. But many of the EU countries failed, or refused, to see Trump's policy for what it is, believing their alliance with the US or their NATO membership would prevent Trump from taking unilateral actions against them.


Relations between the US and the EU have suffered especially because Trump distinguishes between friends based on their capability to boost the US economy and generate employment, especially in the "Rust Belt", so that the US can maintain its leading position in high-tech and finance.


The outcomes of the meetings of Macron and Merkel with Trump show that no country is immune to Trump's unilateral and protectionist moves. They also show that only cooperation and respect for international trade rules can allow all countries to effectively counter protectionism and guard against the unilateral actions of the US, which could trigger major trade and geopolitical crises.



The author is director of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.



Source: China Daily, May 11, 2018,