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If the US does change from its previous course, the EU should respond with a four-part strategy: (1) Collaborate with partners around the world in defence of the World Trade Organisation; (2) Establish deeper economic relations with China and other partners; in particular, the EU should accelerate discussions on the Bilateral Investment Treaty with China while safeguarding its interests and favouring public courts for dispute settlement; (3) Reform EU trade governance and address internal imbalances, to increase the EU’s external credibility.
Interestingly, China had possessed a far more powerful navy two centuries before the Europeans had built theirs, with substantially larger and more capable ships.
However, perhaps due to assumptions of Chinese civilisational self-sufficiency or a fear of foreign influence, China destroyed its own navy in the fifteenth century.
As the US and Europe are not ready to engage in order-building with Russia and other major non-Western actors, instead adopting an oppositional posture, and—primarily due to internal political reasons— because they are highly unlikely to so engage in the next decade, a new international order’s emergence is more likely to occur in the 2030s or 2040s than in the 2020s, after the inevitable rotation of elites in the US and the EU.
Collapse of orders The main reason for the general confusion among Western elites and the tension in world politics and the international economy is the simultaneous decay of most global and regional international political and economic orders, by which here we refer to systems of rules, norms, and patterns of behaviour accepted by a majority of actors at a particular time.
The new US administration seems intent on replacing multilateralism with bilateral deals.
In trade, it aims to secure new trade deals in order to reduce bilateral trade deficits and to protect, in particular, the US manufacturing sector.
In climate policy, the US commitment to the Paris Agreement is being questioned.
In defence, the security umbrella appears less certain than previously.
The overall promise behind this change of direction is to put ‘America first’ and deliver better results for US citizens.
POLICY CHALLENGE The EU is a relatively open economy and has benefited from the multilateral system.