The Ukraine crisis has brought America and the EU closer together than they have seen in a long time. But the alliance could falter if the Biden administration pursues a protectionist economic policy that weakens European industry, writes The Washington Post columnist Farid Zakaria.
The United States and Europe are in a closer alliance than at any time in decades. Much of this rapprochement is due to the Ukrainian conflict and the way the Biden administration has handled this crisis, says The Washington Post columnist Farid Zakaria.
According to him, the US authorities have been able to rally allies around them, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Washington persuaded them to act decisively to “punish” Russia. All this helped create “a moment of unusual Western unity that could help restore and rebuild a rules-based international system”.
But this success could be undermined by “unilateral policies and the pursuit of narrow personal interests” by the US. European leaders are alarmed by the protectionist nature of the White House’s economic policy, which favours American goods and generously subsidises domestic green technologies, the journalist points out.
All these measures violate the rules of free trade that underpin the international system that Washington has promoted since the late 1940s. The French finance minister has already complained that Washington is copying China’s industrial policy, and one senior European official left the US-EU summit unhappy that he believes Washington does not care about the bloc’s concerns, Zakaria notes.
“Tensions will continue to rise because Europe’s misery will only get worse. Faced with natural gas prices seven times and electricity prices ten times higher than in the previous two decades, many European companies are beginning to realize that they simply cannot compete,” the author emphasizes.
In his opinion, there is a real risk of deindustrialization of Germany if major industries, including the chemical and automotive industries, move more factories abroad, to the United States or China. Europeans are outraged at what they see as blatant American hypocrisy.
“The Americans constantly lecture us that we should all support a rules-based international system. But then before our eyes, Washington announces measures that completely violate the basic principles of that order,” one official complained to Zakaria.
As the lives of ordinary Europeans deteriorate and local companies move to America, friction between the US and EU will make it harder for them to cooperate in confronting Russia. The bloc is also less likely to take a tough and united stance against China, which will become an increasingly important market for the continent’s economic future.
Eventually, European and other countries will begin to respond to U.S. protectionism with their own countermeasures. As a result, the open international trading system will begin to close, the publicist warns.
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