President Donald Trump will depart the White House in January after four years in Washington. He will be succeeded by President-elect Joe Biden, who has a far more favourable view of the EU having served under Barack Obama when relations between Washington and Brussels were strong. While Mr Trump launched trade wars with the bloc and emerged as a prominent backer of Brexit, Mr Biden is expected to agree with the EU on most issues. However, one expert warns that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an influential figure in Europe, could clash with President-elect Biden over policy on China.
Judy Dempsey, a senior fellow at think tank Carnegie Europe, argues that the EU’s response to China‘s interventions in Hong Kong has been “shameful”.
She added in an article this month that Germany’s especially strong trading ties with the country.
Professor Dempsey said: “Beijing has had an easy run in Europe. It has pursued a policy of divide and rule. China’s attraction as a huge market for several EU member states—especially Germany—went unchallenged until recently.
“Indeed, the EU’s response to Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong has been close to shameful. It’s as if trade ties mattered more than defending democrats protesting to protect their freedoms.”
The expert warns that the EU will have to adapt its approach to Beijing if it is to benefit from closer ties with the US under President-elect Biden.
While President Trump was critical of European nations, including the UK, for allowing Chinese technology to be used for 5G networks, Professor Dempsey argued Ms Merkel was quiet on the issue.
She added that while the German Chancellor has supported processes that could help to prevent China from acquiring sensitive assets in Europe, Beijing’s strong trading ties with the EU mean that there are already security risks.
Professor Dempsey added: “If Merkel is committed to the transatlantic relationship and security, Berlin has to be far more active in pushing the EU toward agreeing to a coherent policy on China—and one that dovetails or meshes with the incoming Biden administration.”
China is now the EU’s second-biggest trading partner behind the US and the EU is China’s biggest trading partner.
In 2019, China was the third-largest partner for EU exports of goods (9 percent) and the largest partner for EU imports of goods (19 percent), statistics from the European Commission show.
Among the EU Member States, the Netherlands was the largest importer of goods from China and Germany was the largest exporter of goods to China in 2019.
Reports suggest that Mr Biden could also spark division between Ms Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
In a column published by Politico in November, Germany’s Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Europe would remain dependent on Washington for its defence for a long time to come.
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The strong ally of the German Chancellor found her views strongly opposed by Mr Macron, who has called for “strategic autonomy” and said he was “in complete disagreement” with the German minister.
Despite Mr Macron’s clashes with President Trump, people close to the French President had said that the US’ “America First’ approach and criticism of Germany for not reaching defence spending targets had helped France’s cause.
Mr Biden also appears set to clash with Prime Minister Joe Biden, one expert told Express.co.uk in November.
Dr Nigel Bowles of Oxford University said the UK will have to make painful concessions to secure a UK-US trade deal.
He said: “I think that the EU and US have all the cards. All the leverage is with them.
“Boris Johnson has already got an agreement from 2019 with the EU, and they will hold him to it and the US will hold them to it.
“Whether Trump or Biden is President, the House of Representatives won’t pass a trade deal with the UK if the EU-UK understanding is overridden.
“I think there is a trade deal to be struck, but there will have to be painful trade-offs on environmental standards, food safety standards. There will be losers.”