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Europe views the US election


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Europe views the US election

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The gloves are certainly off in the US election – and beyond the acrimony – whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the White House – the result will inevitably have global implications. What does this vote mean for Europe, an historically close ally of the United States?

In a special US election edition, Global Conversation gets perspectives from the former Prime Minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, Pascal Lamy, previous Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and celebrated film director and social commentator Ken Loach.

Political Perspective

euronews – Isabelle Kumar
Mr Alexander Stubb, as you know we are taking a European perspective on the US election, so with that in mind, what would you like the foreign policy priorities of the next president of the United States to be?

Alexander Stubb
Well, if I was to define it in two words – one would be engaged and the other would be international. It is very important for us Europeans to see an engaged United States, whether that is in Europe in the Middle East in Asia, in Africa, or anywhere else. We need close allies, we need the United States and we need the European Union to be hip to hip.

Isabelle Kumar
So how would you characterise a potential presidency of a Donald Trump or a Hillary Clinton?

Alexander Stubb
Well, one will be engaged, the other will probably be disengaged. I know Hillary Clinton personally, I was Foreign Minister at the same time when she was Foreign Secretary. I am very impressed with her foreign policy knowledge and also her engagement. She will probably be even more engaged that President Obama.

I do not know Donald Trump, but from what I hear we’re talking about building walls, we’re talking about protectionist measures, we’re talking about nationalist measures, we’re talking about withdrawal of American troops. I think from a European perspective, to be quite honest, if he were to hold true to his thesis that would spell trouble.

Isabelle Kumar
So they have not talked about us in Europe a great deal, if at all, in the Presidential debates, so what do you think the relationship would be with Europe because here we are at the point of conjecture I suppose?

Alexander Stubb
If Hillary Clinton were to be elected President of the United States you will see a much more engaged United States. They will not withdraw from NATO, they will probably not start withdrawing troops from Europe, they will see Europe as a close ally and a partner, for instance,in negotiations in the Middle East, or indeed in the war in Syria and the fight against terrorism. I think if Donald Trump is chosen that’ll be a shock to the whole system. Europeans actually follow American Presidential elections very closely, I think a lot of people will be scared by the rhetoric Donald Trump puts forward. We have obviously seen similar rhetoric here in Europe, but I think Donald Trump is in a league of his own.

Isabelle Kumar
You mentioned NATO, Donald Trump has actually questioned the very existence of NATO. Do you think in that case it is important for Europe to come up with its own defence force?

Alexander Stubb
I definitely think that Europe should work on its own defence policy, there is no question about that. But at the same time 22 of the 28 EU member states are also members of NATO, 94-95% of the EU population is in NATO, and that will probably continue to be the bedrock of European defence for the forseeable future. I do understand Americans who make an argument that perhaps it’s time to slowly tone down engagement there, but I think it’s in American interest if you look at reactions and behaviour of Russia, if you look at the war in Syria, to actually stay engaged in NATO.

Isabelle Kumar
You brought up the issue of Russia, that’s obviously very important to Finland, you share a long border with Russia,relations with Russia have plummeted. Do we need to press that reset button with Moscow, with President Vladimir Putin?

Alexander Stubb
Yes, definitely. I think we were under the illusion that say from 1991 to 2000 that Russia would become, to a certain extent, a normal and engaged democracy in the international community. But then we saw with the war in Georgia in 2008 and especially with the crisis in Ukraine that was not going to be the case. I think Russia came back to the international table again with their engagement in Syria. While we strongly condemn actions in Aleppo with President Assad at this particular moment, I think the West and Europe, the United States understands there is no solution to Syria without Russian engagement. I think the sooner we press the reset button and find a common term with Russia the better off we are, but at the same time I do believe that our foreign policy should be principled.

Isabelle Kumar
Do you think Hillary Clinton would be able re-press that reset button – she did try a good few years ago. Donald Trump on the other hand says he’s got a great relationship with Vladimir Putin – whether that’s true or not – maybe he’s the one more capable of negotiating or re-negotiating that relationship?

Alexander Stubb
I don’t think that would actually be the case. You must remember that Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, was Foreign Minister at the same time as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, so they know each other very well. And obviously Russia, the Russian regime, knows what the current establishment is. If Russia is looking for stability in foreign policy, continuation and to a certain extent I think credible engagement, then they should be pushing for Hillary Clinton. If they want instability and insecurity in the world then they should be looking at Donald Trump. I think this would have global ramifications, and the Russians know that as well.

Isabelle Kumar
So when it comes to ISIL or the so-called Islamic State, who would you say has the upper hand in dealing with this terrorist organisation? Would it be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

Alexander Stubb
Well probably as a foreign Prime Minister, my previous capacity, I would have had to say that we’ll deal with whoever is elected. But I think it’s quite self-evident – let’s be clear about it – Clinton is a much safer pair of hands. The rhetoric of Trump might be tough against terrorism but it’s not enough just to say that ‘I will destroy ISIS’, you also have to say how you will do that and how you’re engaged. Usually that requires diplomatic skill and I haven’t seen much of that with Donald Trump to be quite honest.

Isabelle Kumar
And finally, who would you say would make Europe a safer place, would it be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton at the helm of the United States?

Alexander Stubb
I would definitely argue that it would be Hillary Clinton. She is not only a safe pair of hands, she is also an experienced set of hands. On top of that I think she has her values right when it comes to a defence of liberal democracy, a defence of market economy, and also a defence of globalisation. So if I had a chance as a Finn to vote I am sure I would vote for Hillary Clinton. But, hey, it’s not my business, I will be influenced by it, it is the American people who decide.

Alexander Stubb

  • Prime Minister of Finland 2014-2015
  • Held other ministerial posts including Finance and Foreign Affairs
  • Has penned several books on the EU
  • A keen athlete, he has completed ‘ironman’ triathlons

Economic Perspective

When it comes to the economy it is often said that if the US sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. That’s certainly true for Europe as recent history shows all too well. To discuss the economic impact of the American vote, Global Conversation met with former WTO leader Pascal Lamy.

euronews – Isabelle Kumar
It’s often said that elections are won and lost on economic issues. Well, when it comes to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton you can’t say that they agree on much… but they do seem to share scepticism when it comes to globalisation. So would you say that whoever is the next incumbent of the White House that we will be entering a more protectionist era?

Pascal Lamy
I think Trump would be protectionist and Clinton would be less ‘trade-open’ than her predecessors. So, on the one side, it would probably be actively protectionist, raising tariffs, barriers, walls, whatever – and she would be probably more passive, a bit Obama-like in a way, certainly less Bill Clinton pro-trade.

Isabelle Kumar
If there is this drawback, this pull back towards more protectionist policies by both candidates – to a lesser or greater degree – what will the impact on Europe be?

Pascal Lamy
I think the overall impact – either of more protectionism or of less trade openness would be less growth. Less growth for the US economy, hence less growth for the world economy, hence less growth for the European economy. So, I have no doubt that slowing down trade through protectionism leads to worse economic results for everybody – and, by the way, that will also be true for China, or Africa, or Indonesia given the huge importance of the US economy in the world economy.

Isabelle Kumar
Changing tack slightly, and looking at Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump… Hillary Clinton, in very broad terms, is said to represent continuity. We know markets like predictability. Donald Trump can be seen as representing change – but Donald Trump is also said to be an astute businessman, a successful businessman, so surely he might have the edge on Hillary Clinton when it comes to the economy of the United States?

Pascal Lamy
Good business people don’t always make good trade negotiators and the other way around. And I personally believe, by the way, that if Trump were to be elected, the system, the US constitution, the relationship with Congress, the disciplines which the US has subscribed to internationally, notably with the WTO, would prevent him from enforcing two thirds of what he says he had in mind. Not least because if you become US president you have to behave from time to time.

Isabelle Kumar
Let’s look at some specifics then. The trade agreement between the EU and the US, TTIP – that seems to have run into a lot of trouble. It’s unpopular on both sides of the Atlantic and it doesn’t look like President Obama will be able to push that through before the end of his presidency. Do you think that’s just going to be dumped now by both candidates – Trump and Clinton?

Pascal Lamy
No, I don’t think it’s going to be dumped, I don’t think it will die. It will simply take time.

Isabelle Kumar
Either candidate?

Pascal Lamy
Of course. From the very beginning when I recovered my ‘freedom of speech’ when I left the WTO in 2013, from the very beginning I said those who believe this can be done in what they said ‘quote unquote’ – “a tank of gas had smoked something!” It’s so complex, it’s so big, that pretending you can do that short-term is just a dream.

Isabelle Kumar
And what about this ‘pivot east’, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State – she was one of the people who championed this pivot east in terms of trade towards China in particular, which for some was also a sign of her turning away from Europe. So could we see then, if Donald Trump were to become President, he has been pretty vociferous in his criticism of China, that that could actually benefit Europe ultimately?

Pascal Lamy
I think these are for dinner speeches. The reality in economics, in trade, is size, weight, numbers. And the fact that the world economy is much more ‘Asia’ than in the past will not change, and if anything in the ten, twenty years to come it’s going to be more and more of Asia and less and less of Europe relatively, and US by the way. And then the next wave will be Africa and there will be more and more Africa and relatively less and less Asia. So that will not change.

Isabelle Kumar
So I would like you to give me, a salient strong point why you might choose, if you were voting in the US, to vote for Donald Trump in economic terms and why you might choose to vote for Hillary Clinton?

Pascal Lamy
That’s a hard question.
It is a hard question because I listen to what Trump says, I read what he ‘Tweets’ and it does not make sense. I don’t think it would be good for the US and I don’t think it would be good for Europe or for the rest of the world.

Isabelle Kumar
So there’s nothing? There’s nothing there where you might say, ‘That’s a nugget’?

Pascal Lamy
It’s economic reality like you have reality TV. It’s another world, it’s a world of dreams – it’s a world of fantasies, but it’s not the real world. I think Hillary Clinton is much more in the real world. I think there is no doubt for Europe, for the world, for the US – she’s a safe pair of hands.

Pascal Lamy

  • WTO Director-General from 2005-2013
  • European Commissioner for Trade from 1999-2004
  • Member of the French Socialist Party
  • Currently President Emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institute

Social Perspective

Ken Loach is a celebrated, award-winning director known for films that present a harsh critique of society, often broaching with stark realism and themes of poverty and inequality.

Euronews’ Efi Koutsokosta caught up with the filmmaker in Brussels for the tenth anniversary of the LUX Prize.

euronews – Efi Koutsokosta
Mr Loach, many thanks for being on Global Conversation. Your latest film I, Daniel Blake speaks about a man’s battle to get welfare benefits – so why did you choose this topic now and how close to the reality in Europe and the United States is your story?

Filmmaker, Ken Loach
It’s a man who has had a heart attack, he’s unfit to work, he can’t work, he’s too ill, but the state tells him that he has to work in order to have the money to survive. And so it’s what happens to him and a woman he meets in a similar – it’s a complicated story – but a similar situation. What is interesting to us is that it demonstrates that there’s a system in place, an economic system in place, which denies dignity, denies the means of life to millions of its people in each country. Mass unemployment, mass under employment, where people still need support from the state even though they are working because the wages are so low, or they are only working two days a week – so we are in the grip of an economic system that doesn’t work.

Efi Koutsokosta
Do you see that this system has reached its limits for the poorest part of the society?

Ken Loach
Well, who knows how far they can drive people down. They keep driving people down. It’s what we call neo-liberalism, isn’t it? It’s destroyed Greece, destroyed the lives of many people, while big business is unregulated and we get grotesque inequality.

Efi Koutsokosta
The thing is, that if we see the big picture, the last figures from the big organisations like OECD, we see that there is a big gap which has widened over the years between the richest and the poorest. There was a crisis also in the West and Europe and United States where people paid the price – but the richest part, the small part of the population, has become even richer. What went wrong? What is going wrong?

Ken Loach
Well it’s gone right for them, this is their system – this is what they want. This is the logic of the big corporations having unlimited power. They will cut the cost of labour, they will get the raw materials the cheapest they can and they will compete with each other for market share. The rewards are huge and the cost for the working class people is immense. This isn’t their system working badly. This is how it works and I think the only way we can change it is to change the economic model completely.

Efi Koutsokosta
What about racism and discrimination, because we also see some movements in the United States with Black Lives Matter – we have the first African-American president in history, Barack Obama, but we have seen that police violence against black people in the United States has risen.

Ken Loach
People behave in racist ways and racism gets hold when people are, again, despairing. I mean generosity with each other comes when people are strong, doesn’t it? Generosity, they say, is strength to spare. And people are generous with each other and tolerant of each other and work together when they are confident, when they are secure, when they are not anxious about their future. So you need an economic system that provides that, provides security. And then, our natural way to live is as good neighbours isn’t it? If you are short of a pint of milk you can come and borrow from me, or if I am locked out I will climb in through your window to get into my flat, we are just good neighbours. But when people are angry, alienated, in trouble, then their generosity shrivels.

Efi Koutsokosta
We soon have the American elections. How do you think the result of these elections could affect Europe?

Ken Loach
Well, I think if it’s Hillary Clinton it will carry on as before – it will just be business as usual. It will be a hard-nosed, pro-business government. If Trump wins – God help us. I mean, just take cover I think. The idea of that man having his finger anywhere near a nuclear button is the stuff of nightmares, isn’t it? I mean if Clinton wins it’s still bad news because she will still drive through the interests of American capital.

Ken Loach

  • A multi-award winning British film director
  • Recognised for his provocative social realism
  • Filmmaker for 50 years
  • Won his second Palme d’Or for I, Daniel Blake

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