Written by Richard Freedman,
Making the introductory speech to an event entitled ‘The US Presidential election: Transatlantic perspectives’, MEP David McAllister (EPP, Germany), Chairman of the European Parliament delegation to the United States, referred to the US election campaign as an ‘ongoing movie’. The event was the first in a series organised by the EPRS on the US elections, and was held in the Library Reading Room in Brussels.
Speaking about the free trade agenda, Mr McAllister stated that it was not a very encouraging sign that few politicians ran for election on a free trade agenda. Therefore a good TTIP, which may not necessarily be a quick TTIP agreement, was important, so that the agreement’s benefits could be better explained to Europe’s citizens. On defence matters, Mr McAllister underlined that, even though the US had shouldered the major burden within NATO, most EU Members were reversing their defence cuts and major players were close to reaching the 2% spending benchmark. It should also be considered that while hard power is necessary in an increasingly hostile neighbourhood, it is the EU’s soft power that will bring viable solutions to regional conflicts. Furthermore, Mr McAllister pointed out that, while the EU faces major and multifaceted challenges, such as migration, terrorism, and war in the periphery, the transatlantic relationship endures, and indeed is stronger than ever, despite potential differences, because it is based on shared values and shared history, and will therefore continue to grow and endure in the future.
Insights from the Republican Campaign
Mark Strand, President of the Congressional Institute and adjunct Professor in George Washington University and an expert on Republican politics, recalled that Abraham Lincoln was elected on the third ballot of the convention, pointing to possibly similar scenario this time around. He pointed out the usual transition of power from one party to another in the US after an eight year cycle of an incumbent President and therefore, under normal circumstances, a Republican President would have an excellent chance of winning. For Mr Strand, it was unlikely Mr Donald Trump would win enough delegates to secure a first round victory at the Republican convention, and “if Trump did not win on the first ballot, he will not be the nominee of the Republican Party”, predicted Mr Strand. Mr Strand pointed out the fluid nature of the Convention in Cleveland in July where delegates for example from? Florida would only be bound for the first round ballot and for subsequent ballots could change their votes. Mr Strand underlined that the Republican Senate “will most definitely be in play”.
Insights from the Democratic Campaign
Mr Moses Mercado, former Deputy Chief of Staff to Democratic Leaders of the House of Representatives and expert on Democrat Party politics, firmly predicted that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for President. He also highlighted the introduction of Rule 40b by the Republicans which stated that a candidate would need to win 8 states in order to become the nominee, this he said, was to stop insurgents from taking control of the nomination process, but this had backfired since Mr Trump – the insurgent, is leading in the polls. The Republican infighting played into the hands of the Democrats and predicted that it would be a difficult for a third candidate to be ‘imposed as the nominee’ on the Republican side outside Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. For Mr Mercado, Hillary Clinton would be a ‘reasonable candidate’ and had been one of the biggest supporters of free trade in the Democratic Party.
Listen to a audio recording of the event:
Recalibration of US foreign policy
Célia Belin, Analyst on US affairs and transatlantic relations, Policy Planning, French Foreign Affairs Ministry speaking in an individual capacity underlined that there was a fear of the return of neo-Conservatism in particular in foreign affairs with some of the candidates on the Republican side. There was still a deep divide between the US engagement in the world following the recalibration of US foreign policy under Obama with a more retrenched style compared to the previous Republican Administration. America, with its ‘Asian pivot’ was moving more towards the Pacific and away from the Atlantic and the Middle East with its decline in dependence on gulf oil. It was clear for Ms Belin that that the US was no longer ready to be “the sheriff of the world” and that the US was recalibrating further its strategic alliances and examining its relationships with Saudi Arabia and with Israel for example.