A Deeper and Wider Atlantic
As the Obama administration sets out to define its objectives and priorities for the second term and European leaders re-emerge from an exhausting battle against the Eurozone crisis, time may finally be ripe for a meaningful debate on how to reinvigorate and renew the transatlantic relationship. Bold proposals are being put forward and big ideas are being considered.
Prominent among these is the project of establishing an EU-US free trade area, alternatively known as the ‘Transatlantic Free Trade Area’ (TAFTA), and the vision of a ‘wider Atlantic’ space featuring a more balanced relationship between North Atlantic countries, as represented by NATO and the EU, and the emerging economies in Atlantic Africa and Latin America. The former project focuses on strengthening the existing transatlantic bonds as a way to help with each other’s economic challenges while reaffirming transatlantic leadership, the latter puts emphasis on the need to reconceptualize the Atlantic altogether by including the North-South and South-South dimensions in future transatlantic policy discussions.
Although separate and at very different stages of development, the two visions could be seen as complementary in the long term as the revitalization of the transatlantic relationship is sought through a twin process of ‘deepening and widening’ of the transatlantic space.
Power calculations, economic advantage, similarities of culture and values, and strategic opportunity are among the main considerations that have guided these proposals. US and European leaders seem to agree that while full recovery and future growth will primarily depend on domestic reform, the success of their societies will also be staked on international initiatives capable of reverting or avoiding what some consider the predicament of Western decline. For their part, countries from the fast-developing Central and Southern Atlantic regions, east and west, may for the first time be in a position to set the terms of a more equal dialogue with the traditionally more developed North based on mutual interests and a sharing of principles.