Populism, Migration, Russia, Trade Dominate Discussions at GMF's Brussels Forum
~ Ivanov, Klimkin, Bozkir, Turner, Tusk Featured Saturday ~
BRUSSELS (March 18, 2016) – On the opening day of the 11th Brussels Forum, Estonian President Toomas Ilves warned against the rise of anti-immigrant sentiments in Europe as conflict simmers on the borders of Europe in the east and south.
“International obligations will be thrown out if you end up with populists taking power,” he said. “They all adopt an anti-immigrant position. They are hostile. They tend to be anti-EU. Their views on minorities sometimes are very, very dubious. This is a much bigger threat than simply NATO stopping people between Turkey and Greece.”
Ilves spoke at Brussels Forum, an annual conference on transatlantic relations organized by The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and attended by heads of state, officials from the EU institutions and member states, U.S. officials, congressional representatives, parliamentarians, and academics.
Speaking on the same session, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called for a continued position of unity and strength in Western relations with Russia. “There is no contradiction between a strong defense and political dialogue,” he said. “As long as we are strong, as long as we are firm, as long as we are predictable, we can also engage with Russia in different political arenas.”
Economic security was also on the agenda during the opening day of Brussels Forum. U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a national security advisor for the Donald Trump presidential campaign, said that he doubts that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement will be ratified by the U.S. Senate this year.
“I’ve supported all trade agreements, but long before I supported Mr. Trump, I questioned this one,” he said.
“People are not happy about this. It’s not just Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton opposes the treaty, so does Ted Cruz, the second candidate in the Republican primary. I don’t think it will get through in a lame duck [session],” he said.
Sessions’ comments came during a panel discussion on free trade with Michael Froman, U.S. trade representative, and Cecilia Malmström, European commissioner for trade, both of whom expressed optimism about the prospects for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement between their respective markets.
In response to Sessions’ comments, Froman defended TPP. “We worked very hard to be sensitive to our import-sensitive industries and take their views into account,” he said. “This is the first trade agreement I believe in history that the U.S. domestic textile manufacturing industry supports.”
Malmström said that the European Commission hopes TPP will be approved. “Some of these countries might need a push when it comes to labor standards and sustainable development and how markets are managed,” she said. “That’s a good thing for the whole world, so we really hope that this will go through.”
Free trade was also the focus of Martin Schulz’s opening remarks. The president of the European Parliament said he has long defended free trade between the United States and Europe, but, “defending TTIP becomes really difficult when no concrete results on the content can be shown.”
“If by the end of this year, there is not substantially more on the table than what seems to be the case now,” he said, “I don’t see how negotiations can be concluded.”
Brussels Forum is an annual high-level meeting of the most influential U.S., European, and global political, corporate, and intellectual leaders to address pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic. With over 50 countries represented and more than 400 attendees, the 11th annual Brussels Forum include heads of state, senior officials from the European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. government officials and Congressional representatives, parliamentarians, academics, and media. GMF is delighted to be joined in this initiative by its Founding Partners, Daimler and the Federal Authorities of Belgium. We also extend our thanks to Deloitte as Strategic Partner; BP, UPS, Google, and the OCP Policy Center as Forum Partners; the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, the Brussels Capital Region, the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia, NATO, and the Wilfried Martens Centre as Associate Partners; European Investment Bank, Elnet, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies, IBM, Intel, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, and Solvay as Dinner Partners; and the United States Mission to the EU and EMC as Partners for Brussels Forum’s Young Professionals Summit.