Berlin Obama may not be the president who derisively referred to America’s established trans-Atlantic allies as “Old Europe,” but he’s made it clear that his focus is on Asia. Still, the American and German speakers on the “Trans-Atlantic Relationship” panel were confident that the ties between the two countries wouldn’t suffer.
“Trade and investment with china is our future, but trans-Atlantic trade is both our present and our future,” said Robert Kimmitt, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany and now the chairman of the Deloitte Center for Cross-Border Investment.
“The pivot doesn’t worry me at all,” he added, “because to pivot, you need your pivot foot to be on a strong foundation. And our strong foundation is the trans-Atlantic relationship.” Philip Reeker, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, noted that the commitment of American leaders to preserving the strong relationship with Europe hadn’t changed.
“Next week, Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton, my boss, will take off for her thirtieth—three zero—trip to Europe in her three years in office,” Reeker said. “That shows where her focus is.” Kimmitt argued that it would be wrong to apply a “zero-sum analysis” to America’s relations with Europe and China.
“We can both be strong in the trans-Atlantic space and reach out to Asia,” he said. “They don’t have to be at the expense of each other.” The same fallacy must be avoided when it comes to the sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone, said Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the foreign policy committee in the Bundestag and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
“As we are trying to overcome the euro crisis, there is some zero-sum game thinking, which we have to overcome,” Polenz said, arguing that Germany has benefited tremendously from the euro and must help stabilize the currency union’s struggling members. Polenz fears the impact a Greek exit from the euro would have on Germany and the rest of the continent. Even if Greece represents a small sliver of the continent’s GDP, a departure would have profound “psychological effects,” not to mention “the costs of a failing state” in Greece itself.