On March 18, 2016, the Brussels office of The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a high-level discussion on economic divergence and convergence in the transatlantic space, the role of trade as a foreign policy tool, and the implications for the upcoming European Union (EU) Global Strategy. The debate, organized on the side of Brussels Forum 2016, was held in the framework of the process leading to a new EU Global Strategy, led by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.
The discussion, divided into two parts, was based on the recently published policy brief How Economic Dependence Could Undermine Europe’s Foreign Policy Coherence by GMF’s Senior Transatlantic Fellow Hans Kundnani, and Leveraging Europe’s International Economic Power by Non-Resident Transatlantic Fellow Guillaume Xavier-Bender.
In recent years, patterns of geoeconomic divergence and convergence in the transatlantic space have become more evident. While the degree of transatlantic interconnectedness is still unmatched globally, the growing challenges posed by internal political tensions, and the rise of Asia increasingly question this status quo. It is therefore important to become more conscious of the interdependence between economic growth and political leverage abroad. The upcoming EU Global Strategy should give Europe’s international economic relations their appropriate share of strategic relevance, thereby building on the tendency among political leaders to increasingly emphasize the geopolitical dimension of EU external trade. The EU should also attempt to close the gap between rhetoric and actual policies on economic security, and the way its external economic policy impacts the security of the continent as a whole.
As trade and economic policy cannot be separated from foreign policy, incorporating economic diplomacy into the EU Global Strategy would enable the EU to make the most of its status as one of the world’s leading economies. In terms of political coherence, it is essential that the EU member states find a way to reconcile their individual national preferences and speak with one voice in order to be heard on the global political and economic stage. Lastly, the West should confront the question whether and how it wants to assume leadership in the adaptation process of the global economic architecture to the challenges of the 21st century.