The Economic NATO


BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - With their current plans to establish a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, Berlin and Washington are forging ahead with the establishment of an anti-Chinese economic block. This was one of the subjects the German Chancellor discussed with the US President today. In the struggle against the economic crisis, this is considered an appropriate means for enhancing trade between the European Union and the United States - to the advantage of the Western countries and at the expense of non-Western countries. It also helps Western countries to achieve supplementary advantages in the global competition for their national economies. According to Berlin's German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), this will be a component of a system of several free trade agreements, allowing the development of "a new bi-polar trade policy constellation." It allows the West to "accelerate its trade policy confrontation with Peking."

The Pacific Century

The USA's, long since initiated, shift from an Atlantic to a Pacific oriented global policy will play a very important role in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's talks with US President Barack Obama today. For years, the USA has viewed a rapidly ascending China as its greatest future challenger, and has been orienting its forces more comprehensively in China's vicinity. The US officially announced its "Pacific Century" at the end of 2011.[1] The US is concentrating in the Asia-Pacific realm approx. 60 percent of its military capacity. The thrust of its economy is also more clearly oriented toward China, whose economy is booming. The German elite is therefore growing apprehensive that, in the foreseeable future, Germany may no longer be at the center of global politics. This anxiety is expressed in recent columns: "the Chinese President's recent informal visit to California" is "seen, not only by Obama, as more important" than Obama's current "visit to Berlin."[2]

Growth through Export

China's ascendency set the backdrop for current plans to establish a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA) between the United State and the European Union. Plans had been in consideration already in the 1990s, ( reported [3]) however, they were abandoned and were only recently relaunched. The economic crisis is not least among the current reasons for this relaunch. It is compelling the USA and Germany, in particular, to quickly and significantly expand their exports. This has become important for Germany because the exports in the crisis-ridden countries of the Euro zone will collapse in the long run and, therefore, new substitute markets have to be found. The expert on the United States at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) has analyzed that, due to the current, hardly solvable, power struggles within the US establishment, Washington will also be compelled to seek its "salvation for more economic growth," for the time being "in expanding its exports."[4] Both partners are, therefore, interested in facilitating their commodity trade - not least of all, because of the additional profits they hope to reap by shutting out particularly their non-Western rivals.

Setting Standards

The TAFTA's proponents, who include the whole of German industry, also point to the fact that a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement would provide enormous strategic advantages, based on the exclusive merging of the EU's economies with the economy of the USA. Together, not only would they account for half of the global economic performance and 30 percent of world trade, their ties would also be unrivaled, due to mutual investments. "For Europe, the USA has always been the most attractive foreign investment objective and for the USA, it was Europe," explains the current edition of "Internationale Politik," the specialized journal published by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).[5] In fact, their mutual investments are estimated at around US $2.7 trillion. According to "Internationale Politik", the EU and the USA, together, "are still predominant enough (...) in the global economy, and, as long as this is the case, they could remain the globalization designers," which concretely means that "they could set standards that would be globally adopted, but, above all, adopted by developing markets. This, in turn, could considerably contribute "to being better able to meet challenges in the global competition with emerging economies." This is primarily referring to advantages in competition with the People's Republic of China.

The West against China

Beyond the purely economic considerations, experts also point to the global policy implications a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement would have. A trans-Atlantic economic block would, in fact, only be one of the building blocks of the future global economy. As one specialist at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) reminds, parallel, the United States is working on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). So far, there are eleven countries of the Pacific Coast of the Americas, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific region that have become associated. Japan is supposed to also join.[6] "Of course, China has not been invited to become associated with this agreement," writes the SWP specialist.[7] "Should the USA successfully conclude both the trans-Atlantic and the trans-Pacific agreements, a new bipolar trade policy constellation would be established." This would put Washington in a comfortable position "to accelerate the trade policy confrontation with Peking that has been repeatedly demanded by US politicians over the past few years." As a matter of fact, for some time, in Washington it is referred to as an "economic NATO."[8] The SWP's expert rejects these confrontational plans as unfavorable for Germany: "Washington's European helper's helpers - Germany in particular -" would harvest "no sustainable benefit from such a fragmentation of global trade."

Comprehensive Block Establishment

However, this criticism overlooks the fact that Berlin has long since been involved in the complex establishment of the global economic block in opposition to the People's Republic of China. One element is the recently concluded EU Free Trade Agreement with Columbia, as well as with the TPP country, Peru.[9] Free Trade Agreements with TPP countries Mexico and Chile have already been in existence for quite a while. Other TPP countries have also contractual ties to the EU, for example Singapore, soon also Canada and negotiations have been initiated with Malaysia and Vietnam. German think tanks are attentively reporting on the "ASEAN+6" - a giant, free trade zone, free of western influence, including South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India and the countries of the Southeast Asian ASEAN alliance, which China plans to establish as a countervailing measure.[10] The establishment of Western economic blocks surrounding China is forging ahead - also with Germany's active participation.

[1] see also Das pazifische Jahrhundert
[2] Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger: Ziemlich gute Partner; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.06.2013
[3] see also The Basis of Transatlantic Interests
[4] Josef Braml: Die transatlantischen Beziehungen stecken in einer tiefen Krise; Palais Biron Nr. 16, Winter 2013
[5] Beate Maeder-Metcalf: Eine breite Allianz. Die USA und die EU können gemeinsam die Globalisierung gestalten; Internationale Politik Mai/Juni 2013
[6] Beteiligt sind bislang die USA, Kanada, Mexiko, Peru, Chile, Australien, Neuseeland, Singapur, Malaysia, Brunei und Vietnam.
[7] Heribert Dieter: Festung Atlantik; Internationale Politik Mai/Juni 2013
[8] David Ignatius: A free-trade agreement with Europe? 05.12.2012
[9] see also Ein strategisches Gegengewicht
[10] see also Panzer für Südostasien