President Trump attended the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany. From a distance, the meeting aspects which are reported are mainly uncontrolled demonstrators, burning Porsche cars and police at the end of their rope. Little, if any, benefit is attributed to the meeting.
A closer look shows tremendous opportunities this meeting can bring. Much of Europe does not understand the United States, much less the processes initiated by President Trump. This lack of understanding reminds me of the 1980 election of President Reagan. He was labeled a B class actor, a cowboy, and an inexperienced lucky vote-getter. The accusers were wrong then, and they are wrong now.
The Trump approach consists of a vision which will shape the future of economies and countries. It sets far-ranging priorities, in which partners with good intentions make shifts and rectifications, which are sometimes difficult and not always fun to implement. By contrast, Europeans are much more transaction oriented.
In preparation for the September election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks to claim a leadership vision when she warns that Europe may need to assume responsibility for its own fate. Such a leitmotiv lets hollow comparisons to the past drive the outlook for the future. Little else from the G20 meeting is long term, silo busting, or innovative.
President Trump lives up to promises made. He maintains his support for more balanced trade relations and the requirement for all nations to pay a fair contribution for the benefits they obtained from the United States. Just like with one’s favorite drinking establishment, one can run a tab only so long. Even when past debts are not collected, future expenses must be paid.
U.S. support to Europe harks back to 1947 New Hampshire. The Bretton Woods negotiations were guided by generosity, kindness, and by the threat of Soviet expansion. The U.S. created rules for trade in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. New support of currencies came from the International Monetary Fund. A new approach to alleviate poverty and support reconstruction came from the World Bank. All represented true generosity of spirit.
Those measures were excellent — but their context has changed. What was instrumental 70 years ago no longer holds true. U.S. global rules consisted of giving other countries and firms constantly a little nudge to do better. At the same time, U.S. corporate economic needs were ignored, since North American firms were thought to be strong enough to take care of themselves.
In any given year, this approach was acceptable. It demonstrated that in America, it’s not just profit that matters, but that we have a soul. Yet even if such support for allies abroad was only half of 1 percent per year, after seven decades the numbers add up. Just check with the British economy and see the shrinkage of its former world currency, the pound.
President Trump reflects U.S. leadership when raising the need for greater circumspection in trade, investment, and defense. No longer can there be continuous special flows of funds and privileges from the United States to Europe. Times have changed and Europe must stand on its own.
But Europeans won’t do it by themselves. Self-initiated changes could have come from the gigantic peace dividend which came unto Europe after 1985. But instead of investing the newfound money into private expenditures, new research and development, and greater global participation, the dividend was squandered inefficiently.
Now there are substantial trade imbalances, insufficient budgets for necessities, and high deprivations of personal incomes. It makes sense to aim for a balanced and future oriented relationship within Europe and its relations with the United States and other established and emergent economic players.
President Trump gives Europe a necessary nudge which may help nations get on the right track and garner speed of progress. In past times such action was labelled as that of a “patron.” Those who helped rectify shortfalls were called “friends.” Today change is blocked by European leaders. Change triggers new thinking, improved approaches, and incorporation of new parameters into visionary partnership linkages.
That is good and long overdue. Relationships that are rigidly frozen will not last. Dynamism and mutual adjustment are the fuel of progress. It is time for new bonds and new trust bridges, which substitute for prejudices, uninformed claims, and rabble rousing.
Michael Czinkota is a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in and at the University of Kent at Canterbury.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.