Opinion

The U.S.-Europe axis is re-established

Atalayar_Biden Unión Europea

The agreement between President Joe Biden and European leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen in order to put an end to the tariff war between the United States and the European Union is undoubtedly the best sign that the two sides of the Atlantic are returning to the normality of a privileged relationship. The damage caused by Donald Trump to this intercontinental alliance has not been completely rectified by the results of the US president's first foreign trip, but it is clear that it marks a radical turnaround.

The dispute between the two world aeronautics giants, Boeing and Airbus, dates back to 2004, when the US and the EU accused each other of impeding free competition through state aid or tax incentives, and also decreed successive punitive tariff measures that ended up affecting sectors other than those directly concerned. The Spanish agri-food industry, for example, has been the propitiatory victim of these cross-reprisals, once again making good the African saying that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers most.

At the moment, the agreement provides for a five-year suspension of mutual tariff punishments: 6.9 billion euros for European goods entering the United States; 3.4 billion euros for American goods entering the European single market. In the next five years, the many rough edges and mistrust will have to be sorted out in principle, but it is a first step. Other industries considered by both sides to be "key" will have to be included in this chapter of renormalisation, especially steel and aluminium, for which the previous occupant of the White House came to accuse Europe, as well as several Asian countries, of intolerable unfair competition.

While also addressing the very serious problem presented by the taxation of large US technology corporations, Biden has sought to give concrete expression with significant agreements and deeds to the new direction he wants to take during his term in office. Apart from his Irish roots and his great knowledge of European culture, history and Europe's undeniable contribution to the economy and perception of the world, Biden is also driven in this move by China's acceleration to establish itself as the great superpower rival to the United States, with the inevitable attempts to supplant it in all sectors of influence and power.

Washington's main focus and concern remains unchanged; it is the Pacific, but in its dispute with Beijing's leadership, which looks set to get tougher and tougher, Biden is going back to the classic playbook: make peace with your friends and allies and form with them a front powerful enough to measure yourself against your real and great adversary or enemy.

Such a move will logically favour the strengthening of the EU, which has also received two important institutional accolades: Biden's treatment of Michel and Leyen as real leaders, a sign that also breaks with the custom of dealing, above them, with those of the states, and where Merkel's Germany has been Washington's undisputed interlocutor for at least fifteen years, on the one hand; and, on the other, the 'admonition' to Boris Johnson to take the contracts he signs seriously, and to implement what was agreed in the post-Brexit treaty with the EU regarding customs controls in Northern Ireland.

The reaffirmation of commitments to NATO allies, as well as the redefinition of joint missions, the strengthening of the fight against cyber-attacks and the decision to be more drastic in measures against climate catastrophe complete the wide range of issues aimed, if not at changing the world completely, at least at facing the new challenges of the 21st century better equipped.

In many respects, what Biden has put back on the rails is far removed from the abortive TTIP, which was originally intended to form a strong Euro-American axis. Trump brushed it aside as soon as he came to power, making fools of the thousands of do-gooders demonstrating across Europe against it. But where Biden agrees with Trump is that the Chinese wolf's ears are threatening them, so it was more than urgent to rebuild the much-deteriorated relationship with Europe.