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Nov. 16, 2020, 6:00 a.m. EST

With Biden, relations with Europe will only be cosmetically better

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Peter Morici

Many establishment foreign-policy experts blame Donald Trump for the  poor state of relations with Europe . However, a Biden presidency cannot resolve enduring differences and dysfunctions that stress trans-Atlantic cooperation.

For example, Joe Biden can  stop blocking World Trade Organization dispute settlement , and rejoin the World Health Organization and the  Paris Climate Accord  but the fundamentals won’t change.

The WTO lacks the tools to address Chinese mercantilism but Beijing’s consent is needed to write new rules—that’s hardly likely. COVID-19 demonstrated WHO must be reformed to  adequately alert the global community of emerging threats from China —Beijing’s assent for that is also unlikely.

Trump notwithstanding, the American  private sector has been going green  and  cutting CO2 emissions  but the real problem is not U.S. climate accord participation but the goals that the agreement establishes for India and China.

The European Union is much richer and more populous than Russia, yet it must rely on the United States to protect it from Russian aggression. The United States faces  a tremendous challenge from China in Asia , and every dollar spent in NATO can’t be spent in the Pacific.

For the first time since the War of 1812, the American military faces the risk of armed conflict with a foe that is more populous, will soon have a larger economy, and enjoys the home field advantage. Without spending considerably more, the United States is at risk of a humiliation in the Pacific akin to  Carthage’s defeat at hands of Rome in the First Punic War —that established Rome as the pre-eminent Mediterranean sea power.

The Europeans will continue to be told, albeit more politely, they must deal with Russia more on their own.

Germany prioritizes economic interests over national security. In the face of aggression in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin’s poisoning of political rivals such as Alexei Navalny and other provocations, Germany will only  endorse   weak sanctions  and stills pursues the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Through natural gas purchases, Berlin puts hard currency into  Russian pockets that can fund its military  rather than purchase more expensive American liquid natural gas.

Important EU foreign-policy decisions require the unanimous consent of 27 states or unilateral action, making  President Emmanuel Macron’s talk of European sovereignty  incongruent with reality.  The EU lacks the tools to craft a comprehensive, effective foreign policy .

Individual states make their own external immigration policies. And with the  Schengen Agreement , the  Syrians that Germany resettled  may effectively travel elsewhere. The recent knife attacker in Nice entered the  EU illegally through the Italian Island of Lampedusa , and Cyprus and Malta are selling European passports .

France is holding up a free-trade deal with the U.K. by insisting on  substantial access  to  British fisheries , and a trade deal with the United States to protect its farmers.

Cyprus recently  held up sanctions against Belarus  for a rigged presidential election until it got meaningful sanctions against Turkey for exploring for natural gas in disputed Eastern Mediterranean waters. Rather farcical ways to craft EU foreign policy toward either autocracy.

Macron still vaults the idea of a European military  but will the Germans ever be willing to pay or fight? And armies are not well run by committees.

Negotiations within the EU and between Europe and its allies outside areas of Brussels’ strongest regulatory control—tariffs, state aids and competition policy—can be surreal. The idea of the United States negotiating a complimentary approach to Chinese mercantilism with Europe would be as sane as whimsically dropping Donald Trump into “ Duck Soup ” to negotiate with the Marx Brothers a peace and friendship treaty for Fredonia.

The Europeans are fancying a  new get-tough policy  toward Chinese investments in critical technologies, but Germany’s flagging industrial sector  has substantial export markets in China.

If Berlin is inclined to save a buck by buying gas that will finance Russian missiles, why should we reasonably expect it to upset China whose threats are more distant? Alas, Germany is  reluctant to join the United States on Huawei  even though the alternatives are EU suppliers Ericsson /zigman2/quotes/208932705/composite ERIC -0.49% and Nokia. /zigman2/quotes/207421390/composite NOK -0.26%    

Across Europe, China’s state and private enterprises have infiltrated a vast array of European businesses .

With all this, the atmospherics may be more cordial with Biden but the prospects for substantively improved relations appear distant.

<STRONG>Peter Morici is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.</STRONG>

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