The 116th Congress was inaugurated on January 3, 2019, following the 2018 U.S. Midterm elections. This led the European Union to organize a public talk on Capitol Hill with think tank leaders and transatlantic influencers on January 15 to discuss the EU-U.S. relationship under the new Congress.
The event was then followed by a reception celebrating the relaunch of the bipartisan Congressional European Union Caucus. During that reception, the co-chairs of the EU Caucus — Congressmen Gregory Meeks (D/NY-05) and Joe Wilson (R/SC-02) — reaffirmed their intention to remain strong advocates of a vibrant EU-U.S. partnership and paid tribute to EU Ambassador David O’Sullivan, who is a few weeks before the end of his diplomatic posting.
“It’s in the US Interest to have a politically stable European continent…” Kenneth Weinstein
Despite a change of venue to accommodate the high demand for our event at the Rayburn House Office building, we could barely fit all participants. Speakers were surprised by the massive turnout, something unusual for events on Capitol Hill, which reflects the tremendous interest in preserving the EU-US partnership in Washington, D.C.
Our “all-star panel,” to quote a tweet from one participant, may have explained the massive response, too.
Thomas Wright, director of the Center on the U.S. and Europe at Brookings, asked panellists if they were concerned by some statements made by senior U.S. officials on the EU in past months, and what priorities should be when it comes to working with the EU. Kenneth Weinstein, President of the Hudson Institute, pointed out that “it is in the U.S. interest to have a politically stable European continent.”
Victoria Nuland, the President of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), spoke along similar lines, adding that the U.S. should seek to engage with the EU in order to have an impact on its policies, rather than confront it.
She also stated that the U.S. should support efforts to bring Europeans together at a time when some political movements seek to drift Europeans apart.
While acknowledging that the current U.S. administration seemed quite critical of the EU, Karen Donfried, President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, stated that this didn’t excessively affect the “power of the [transatlantic] relationship,” with many U.S. states for instance keeping their pledge to the Paris Climate Agreement.
EU Ambassador David O’Sullivan also urged the U.S. not to “underestimate how far the EU has come” and emphasized that “the U.S. has every interest in the success of the EU project.”
Ambassador O’Sullivan also rejected claims that the EU-US trade and investment relationship is imbalanced: the U.S. trade deficit in goods with the EU (which is the main argument to support that claim) is indeed more than compensated by the U.S. surplus in trade in services and primary income (profits made by U.S. companies in the EU, not accounted for in the trade balance, are about $100bn higher that profits made by European companies in the U.S.). Kenneth Weinstein and Stephen Clayes (Wiley Rein) argued for new steps to strengthen this transatlantic trade and investment relationship.
“There’s bicameral and bipartisan support for a strong relationship between the U.S. and the EU in the U.S. Congress.” -Congressman Gregory Meeks
Following the panel discussion, participants were then invited to a reception celebrating the relaunch of the EU Caucus. Co-Chair Gregory Meeks, from the Democratic party, stressed that there was strong “bicameral and bipartisan support” for the EU-US partnership, which was confirmed by Co-Chair Joe Wilson, from the Republican party, who spoke about the massive importance of European investments (car and tire manufacturing in particular) in his state of South Carolina, which makes it one of the top U.S. Export states.
Both Members of the House of Representatives then paid tribute to the work done by David O’Sullivan during his 4.5 years as ambassador of the EU to the US. “David O’Sullivan is the diplomat’s diplomat,” argued Congressman Meeks, who added that “he was a bridge builder between the EU and the U.S.” In recognition of his work, they handed over a Recognition Record to him, highlighting his “invaluable commitment to the bonds of friendship between Europe and the American people [that] has left an indelible mark on the transatlantic alliance.”
Learn more listening to our EU Now podcast with Congressman Gregory Meeks.