The Ties That Bind: Why Americans Should Pay Attention To The EU

Written by  Michela DeVito, Matthew Lam, Hunter Moskowitz

European Horizons Chapter at Cornell University

The EU and US are important economic, political and ideological allies. They are extremely intertwined, and what is occurring in Europe currently affects the US. As a result, Americans should have a stake in what is occurring in the EU. Due to their close relationship, Americans should be aware of what is occurring in the EU and what policies the US may enact as a result.

Americans should care about the European Union because of the large economic ties amongst the two. Despite Asia’s rise as an economic powerhouse, transatlantic trade remains the most profitable for America. Think not of toys and cheap clothing, but of airplanes, military equipment, cars, luxury bags and other high-end products. This is because of the low tariff of around 3%, which are from logistics such as “customs procedures and…regulatory restrictions.¹ The Transatlantic Economic Council, which provides direct dialogue between EU Commissioners and US Cabinet members,² is currently striving for non-tariff barriers, which could unlock even more potential trade.

Investment and capital across the Atlantic is also key. US investment to the EU is “three times higher than in all of Asia,”³ and comes from both the private and public sector. From the other side, “EU investment in the US is around eight times the amount…in India and China together.”4 Jobs and economic growth in both the US and EU are simply tied. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 hit record highs just last month when Germany and Greece agreed to extend the bailout program, thereby keeping the Eurozone intact. Making up over 50% of the world’s GDP6, the two economies are inseparable. Anyone who cares about the American economy should also keep the European one in mind as well.

Other than economic reasons, Europe remains important to the US because it is one of the United States’ main diplomatic allies. The EU and the US are the two biggest military and economic powers in the world, and thus play a key role in leading world politics. Most significantly, the two have a shared history and culture as part of the Western world. The US has also had a firm stake in the political stability of Europe since after the end of World War II. The US’s influence in the politics of the European subcontinent have engendered this secure, important relationship that the US has to the EU. Due to this relationship, the EU has been a supporter in the US’s actions against Russia, Iran and other countries. It has also been a part of the US’s voting bloc in the United Nations.

In addition, individual member states of the EU are key allies of the US. The United Kingdom enjoys a “special relationship” with the US. The two countries often have policy agreements and vote in accord in the UN Security Council. This positive individual relationship, along with those of other such countries as Germany and France, can only enhance the relationship that the US has to the EU as a whole. Without the EU as a dependable ally, the US could find itself isolated in an increasingly disordered world.

Beyond today’s political and economic situation, European thought has greatly influenced the construction of America and its ideals. The Puritans, in their settling of New England, brought with them a deep religious fervor and desire for economic advancement that was based on political and theological ideas from Europe. Their desire to construct a “city upon a hill” or “beacon of hope” in America is one of the founding ideals of our nation. It also began the roots of American Exceptionalism that came out of wanting to create a better Europe. This influence of European thought continued with the founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence’s “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” can be traced back to Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke and Rousseau and their views on personal liberty.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries millions of Irish, German, Italian and other European immigrants came to the United States and brought new ways of thinking and different ideas that would be adapted to, and helped shape, American consciousness. More modern intellectuals such as Freud and Nietzsche would also have important impacts on American writing, art, and thinking, while economists such as Adam Smith influenced the American capitalist system. In this way, American ideals and values have long been intertwined with those of Europe.

Americans influence on Europe can be seen through its economic intersection, diplomatic ties, and long tradition of intellectual engagement. All these factors should push us to consider Europe as a part of the world we should study, engage with, and try to better understand to the benefit of us all.