The end of the "Trans-Atlantic Century" is looming.
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the power in world affairs has been shifting from Europe to Asia. Our century will likely be driven by the economic dynamics and cultural influences of Asia.
How are Europe and Germany reacting? As the "Pacific Century" dawns, Germany obsesses over the details of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, a free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States that is currently stalled in negotiations.
Yet this deal is about much more than chlorinated chickens or standardized brake lights, as important as they may be.
U.S. President Barack Obama long ago turned his attention to the Asia-Pacific Region. He sees the huge potential there and, in his opinion, it is Asia that will determine whether this century brings conflict or cooperation, hardship or progress.
The world is no longer bowing toward Europe.
It would also be a mistake to presume an “Atlantic president” will move into the White House after the departure next year of “Pacific President” Mr. Obama. Hillary Clinton, the former U.S. foreign minister and a probable candidate to succeed him, recently published a feature article in Foreign Policy magazine on America’s strategy in the Pacific region, where she saw great opportunities.
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict, Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to bolster connections to Asia, especially China, which can declare itself the big winner in the geopolitical realignment.
So, the world is no longer bowing toward Europe.
Given this development, it is no longer simply a question of how a stronger economic dynamic can be achieved in Germany in the future. We can be happy if we maintain our prosperity. The TTIP treaty promises not only more prosperity for Europeans and Americans, but it strengthens mutual ties by promoting the transatlantic partnership.
Still, discord could be sensed between Berlin and Washington during Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent visit to the United States, despite both sides taking pains to give the appearance of harmony. Fallout from the National Security Administration spy affair, in which U.S. agents were revealed to have tapped Ms. Merkel's phone, continues to cloud relations.
The turbulent debate in Washington over arms deliveries to eastern Ukraine, which Germany opposes, is also weakening the two countries' partnership. This is why it’s all the more important to get the stagnant negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement moving again.
It’s not a matter of whether Handkäs cheese from Mainz or Nuremberg sausages will be protected. Instead, it will set the course of foreign policy for the coming century
The TTIP agreement is now a tug-of-war with an uncertain outcome.
Such deals are never a matter of trade alone. Economic relations also represent an exchange of opinions and social values. Increasing prosperity is one thing, but trade agreements produce so much more.
This is not the impression given by politicians in Berlin. Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's vice chancellor and leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party, the junior coalition party, has to discuss every last detail with his party.
But he can’t afford to leave the entire German economy at the whim of the left wing of his party. With all due respect to the blustering Social Democrats, if this is the example they set, it calls into question Mr. Gabriel’s promise of business-friendly policies.
Once again, the infamous “German angst“ prevails. Whether it’s fracking, genetic engineering or the TTIP deal, challenges are given too much airtime.
While our European neighbors ease through debates, in our country the doubters and naysayers determine the direction of discussions. They are a risk to our prosperity.
The TTIP agreement is now a tug-of-war with an uncertain outcome, not only in Germany. The U.S presidential election campaign of 2016 already casts a shadow. There is a significant danger that the project will be killed by disputes between the supporters and opponents.
This is why 2015 is the time to act.
To contact the author: [email protected]