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US President Donald Trump has been outspoken in his opposition to multilateral trade agreements.  He will seek only to sign bilateral agreements in order to leverage the strength of the United States, the larger economy in any negotiation.  In such an environment, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free-trade agreement between the United States and the European Union (EU), is unlikely to survive in its original form.

As indicated by Trump’s rhetoric, the new US administration seems ready to give up the principles of openness, not just in the sphere of economics, that have greatly benefited the entire world. Future generations of Europeans and Americans will pay for this mistake if leaders on both sides of the Atlantic do not pave the way for an alternative agreement, keeping the talks alive. The new reality calls for a rethinking of TTIP, not its abandonment.
The challenge posed by populism, which is fueled by an anti-globalization sentiment, can best be addressed by rallying nations around common goals of financial stability, sustainable and inclusive growth, and job creation, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said at the Atlantic Council on February 8.

“While there can be criticism about this, that or the other, I think around those three pillars I don’t see how we can disagree because I don’t know any policymakers around the world… [who are] saying ‘I want more unemployment, I want less growth, and I want more financial instability,’” she said.

Lagarde delivered remarks at the sixth and final installment of the Power of Transparency Series hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics program and Thomson Reuters. She later participated in a discussion moderated by Axel Threlfall, editor-at-large at Reuters.
Europe’s leaders face publics that are skeptical of globalization and multiculturalism, critical of the performance of the European Commission and European Council leadership, angry about the slow pace of economic recovery, and fearful of the inflow of immigrants and terrorism.

Far-right populist political parties have benefited from this sentiment. These parties are now in an alarmingly strong position as voters head to the polls this year in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and possibly Italy.
European leaders must address the economic factors that have contributed to the rise of populism in the West and cater to their constituents who have been on the losing end of globalization, said George Alogoskoufis, a former finance minister of Greece.

Alogoskoufis contended that globalization is good for societies as a whole, but there are individuals who lose in this system. “Europe cannot go on ignoring the losers,” he said, because “the losses are real enough for those who suffer them,” and nationalist, populist movements target these disaffected people.
The victory of the “no” vote in the Italian referendum is not simply a rejection of reform, but will result in a significant loss of leadership on the European stage with the resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, according to Andrea Montanino, director of the Global Business and Economics Program at the Atlantic Council.

Montanino, a former career officer in the Italian Ministry of Finance, said that “the biggest problem in Europe now is the lack of leadership, the lack of someone to give a vision of what to do next.”

On December 4, Italians voted down a referendum designed to reform and streamline the processes of government. Renzi, who had said he would resign if the “yes” vote is defeated, handed in his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

In Renzi’s absence, compounded by French President François Hollande’s decision to not to seek a second term in office and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to run for a fourth term, “the risk for the future of Europe, to me, is that you will have leaders… that are not able to find a common view,” Montanino said. Additionally, it will be hard for the United States to find a partner in an increasingly insular Europe, he added.
The transatlantic economic relationship, defined by mutual investment and international cooperation, is fundamental to the well-being of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, David O’Sullivan, the European Union’s ambassador to the United States, said in a Facebook Live discussion on December 6.

O’Sullivan joined Anthony Gardner, the US ambassador to the European Union (EU), to discuss the importance of free trade and mutual investment across the Atlantic, as well as address the challenges facing continued economic interaction between the United States and Europe. They were interviewed by Marie Kasperek, associate director in the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program.

O’Sullivan emphasized the need to make the transatlantic relationship, particularly the benefits of free trade and globalization, relevant and accessible to populations who no longer understand the significance of the system.
A “yes” vote in the Italian referendum on December 4 will reinforce Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, bolstering his leadership in the face of rising populism throughout Europe and enabling his efforts to encourage economic growth, said Andrea Montanino, director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program, in a Facebook live discussion on December 1.

Montanino, a former officer in the Italian ministry of finance, joined Ole Moehr, a program assistant with the Global Business and Economics Program, to consider the repercussions of Italy’s upcoming referendum.

Montanino described how the constitutional changes proposed in the referendum will simplify the Italian legislative process and clarify the processes of government. While the success of the referendum has the potential to provide a moment of stability for Europe, Montanino said, a “no” vote can reduce confidence in Italy, negatively affecting the banking system as well as foreign direct investment in the country.
The Italian Constitutional Referendum on December 4,  seeks to streamline Italy's public administration, requiring approval for proposed laws only from the Chamber of Deputies. 
What is this all about? What will a No vote/Yes vote actually mean? Watch this Atlantic Council live video for predictions and answers.


    

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