Meridian 5: EU Trade and Digital Priorities in 2021

On January 28, 2021 the Meridian Corporate Council partnered with ViacomCBS to host a virtual conversation with Ms. Dita Charanzovà, Vice President of the European Parliament; moderated by Ambassador Stuart Holliday, CEO of Meridian International Center, for a discussion on Europe’s economic vision for 2021.

REBUILDING THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP 

Vice President Charanzovà revealed that while the European public still holds positive opinions of the U.S., they also maintain skepticism of the American government indicating that 60% of EU citizens believe the American political system is broken. Vice President Charanzovà hopes that with a new Biden Administration, there might be some headway in repairing the strained U.S.-EU relations; however, President Biden’s signing of the “Buy American” Executive Order has caused early rifts between the two allies.  However, the EU Parliament knows there is not reset button for the relationship but is confident that the EU public conversation could change after the Biden Administration visits Europe and approaches future proceedings as partners and not competitors.

FOCUSING ON THE MULTILATERALISM

Vice President Charanzovà, encouraged the Biden Administration to leave the sector specific, mini-trade deals of the Trump Administration behind and reimagine the United States’ trade relationship with the EU.  Revisiting agreements such as TTIP will most likely remain dead on arrival as there may not be an appetite for it in the EU and U.S. However, the United States’ reengagement with the WTO should create common ground between the U.S. and EU and could create a space for future negotiations on trade issues.

EXAMINING EU ATTITUDES TOWARDS FREE TRADE

Only a third of European citizens share positive views on free trade and the new investment deal with China will further divide Europeans resulting in unfavorable perceptions of China rising to 85 percent in Sweden and 71 percent in Germany. However, Vice President Charanzovà remains hopeful that once European citizens see the economic return from an investment deal with China, they will be more receptive to engaging bilaterally on trade and the economy with the U.S., particularly if the U.S. is concerned about pitching global trade to the EU population currently, but she believes that the views will switch after the deal with China produces economic return and the U.S. bilateral relationship grows stronger. Vice President Charanzovà acknowledges that only one third of Europeans view free trade as beneficial, while most are starting to view international trade in the lens of human rights and environmental issues where they are intrinsically intertwined.

STRENGTHENING U.S.-EU TECHNOLOGY RELATIONS

The European Commission is undecided about if they will emulate China’s strategy and build its own private technology ecosystem or work bilaterally with the United States to regulate Big Tech companies. Vice President Charanzova agrees with the latter and wants to create cooperative solutions. The EU-U.S. agenda for global change, outlines how the two countries plan to engage on issues like the coronavirus and trade and tech policy. In the proposal, the Commission mentions forming an EU-U.S. Technology Council that will collaborate on agreements that protect critical technologies like artificial intelligence and data.

A RISE IN A GREEN AGENDA

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, gave an address this week to the Davos Agenda stating Europe has set out to become the first continent to reach climate neutrality by 2050. The European Climate Law aids in this effort by reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 55% by 2030, and the Commission set aside 37% of its NextGenerationEU Recovery Plan to the European Green Deal. Vice President Charanzova stated that, although every EU member country has a different interest in green energy, she can confirm a green agenda is a continent-wide priority.

Project summary

Meridian 5: EU Trade and Digital Priorities in 2021 | January 2021
Number of Attendees: 38
Regions: Europe and Eurasia
Impact Areas: Business and Trade
Program Areas: Convening
Partners: Private Sector
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