Helsingin Sanomat | 29 January 2010
Stubb proposes free trade agreement and “marriage council” for EU and USA
Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party) has proposed a common free trade zone for the European Union and the United States and a kind of marriage counselling for the two.
“We need to put our money where our mouth is. Time to stop beating around the bush – we must create a free trade zone between the EU and US”, Stubb said in his speech at London’s Chatham House on Wednesday.
The relationship between the EU and the USA has been the cause of some concern, especially in Europe, while the ties between the US and China have become closer. Stubb saw Europe and the United States as a “grumpy old couple”.
“They are capable of cruelest of arguments and noblest of solidarity and they cannot escape their shared history. But they are not quite sure how the relationship will play out in their changing neighbourhood.”
As he sees it, their common history, and their largely shared values are not sufficient as a basis of the relationship.
In his speech, the Finnish Foreign Minister put forward five concrete proposals to boost the relationship between the EU and the USA. In addition to a free trade area, he brought forward the idea of a solidarity pledge, which would oblige both the EU and the United States to provide aid to each other in the event of a terror attack or natural disaster.
A similar pledge came into effect among EU countries when the Lisbon Treaty was approved. Stubb emphasised that such a pledge between the US and the EU would complement, and not weaken commitments under NATO.
The Foreign Minister said that the EU and US should also lead the world in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
This proposal reflects European disappointment with the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Conference. He also said that EU-US cooperation should also be open to countries in the respective neighbourhoods, such as Canada, Turkey, and Norway.
To spice up the somewhat stale relationship, Stubb proposed setting up a “marriage council” - a group of experts led by two prominent personalities from both sides.
“Their task would be to outline a set of proposals on how to reinvigorate the transatlantic relationship. This ‘council’ could draw upon recent analyses and submit their proposals to the upcoming EU-US Summit.”
After his speech, Stubb admitted that in a visionary speech, realism can sometimes take a back seat. He said that he believes that a free trade area between the EU and the US could be a reality by 2020 if the marriage counselling works out.
He also said that the United States is not exclusively to blame for the coolness in the relationship, and that the European Union also needs to look in the mirror.
“The United States plays with players from whom it can get some benefit”, he said.