The economic relationship between the United States and the European Union (EU) is in the midst of a significant transition. In the past, the dominant element of that relationship was trade. But in recent years, several new elements have become more prominent in the transatlantic economic relationship, bringing with them both challenges and opportunities.
However, it is only natural that trade has so far dominated, given the two parties’ large share of the global trading system: the United States generates 19 percent of world trade, and the European Union 20 percent. Moreover, the United States is the EU’s largest trading partner, while the EU is the single largest importer into the United States and the second largest market for U.S. exports.
- Although the involvement of business and labor in the U.S.-EU economic policy dialogue is well established, other constituencies, including environmentalists and consumers, have been underrepresented. While governments will obviously remain the main parties in the policy process, without the increased participation of these groups in some manner, it will be even more difficult to resolve many of the most sensitive issues on the current transatlantic economic agenda.
- The dialogues established under the New Transatlantic Agenda (NTA) have had somewhat mixed success. Where possible, they should be strengthened and improved. Certainly, the relatively young NTA process should be allowed to mature before any real judgments are passed.
- Effective participation of both existing and new constituencies might be better attained through discussions focused on specific issues that are central to the current official dialogue and also priorities on the agendas of responsible civil society representatives.
- While the NTA dialogues should be continued, new fora should also be established. Each should focus on one high-priority issue, such as GMOs or internet privacy, and bring together a wide range of civil society and government representatives determined to make a constructive contribution.
- The U.S.-EU parliamentary dialogue should be enhanced. A broad spectrum of current policy issues should be examined, and legislators should participate based on their expertise and interest in specific topics. The start of a new U.S. administration and Congress is an excellent time to launch such an effort.