In the context of our monitoring of various think tank events in the Brussels bubble, we attended as US Ambassador to the EU Anthony Gardner presented his views on US – EU relations at a briefing hosted by the European Policy Centre. His remarks ranged from notes on current foreign policy challenges to TTIP negotiations and the role of the UK in the EU.
Addressing the situation in Ukraine, in light of looming harsher sanctions against the Russian Federation, the ambassador suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be acting as a catalyst in a new era of transatlantic relations, fostering deeper cooperation between the US and EU in the face of a common adversary.
Cooperation on the reduction of trade barriers appears to be a highly contentious issue between the US and the EU, with the ambassador urging all to see those technical debates in context and to avoid divisive rhetoric. Indeed, the TTIP would provide the best stimulus available for job growth, and it would put the importance of rules-based trade on the global agenda, he said. As public opposition to the agreement grows, governments would need to convince citizens of its virtues, by providing narratives on the benefits of such framework. He did confirm that inclusion of financial services into the agreements is deemed undesirable by the US.
In the context of his remarks on trade negotiations, the ambassador reaffirmed that the US supports UK membership of the EU. He said it was not only because of TTIP that the UK should consider it in its interest to stay in the EU, but also because “surprise, surprise – the EU has greater leverage” than the UK alone.
Though the ambassador centred his talk on the aforementioned issues, he briefly remarked the importance of common justice and home affairs frameworks such as the US – EU Safe Harbor framework and the Data Umbrella Agreement to strengthen data protection, among others in the law enforcement realm.
Overall, while the transatlantic relationship is certainly highly complex, the ambassador made clear that the US strives for enhanced cooperation on various issues, ranging from foreign affairs and trade, to data protection and climate change.
For a visual summary (aka twitter) of the policy briefing, click here.