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Trans-Atlantic vs. Trans-Pacific

Barack Obama's first foreign trip as president will take him to Canada tomorrow, not to Europe. He gave his first press interview to an Arab TV station, not a European broadcaster.

Secretary Clinton went on a tour to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China, but not yet to Europe. She brought "an invitation from President Obama to Prime Minister Taro Aso to meet him at the White House next Tuesday. He will be the first foreign leader received at the White House," reports the New York Times. Michael Green, the Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, describes in the Wall Street Journal how to freshen up "a key trans-Pacific alliance."

Should we get envious or even concerned that the new and cool team in Washington does not want to play "Hope & Change" with us? Is the Pacific region taking priority over Europe in Obama's US foreign policy? Could be, but that is not bad for us. Europe benefits from America's strong security presence in Asia. My friend Shawn Beilfuss, a supply chain manager in Melbourne, agrees and concludes: The Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Relationships: Not a Zero-Sum Game.

Besides, we are still winning the Google Fight: Searching for "trans-atlantic alliance" produces twice more results on Google than "trans-pacific alliance." And we are even more popular, if you skip the dash after "trans."

Moreover, Vice-President Biden was already in Germany, as for instance Michael Knigge points out in a commentary for Deutsche Welle: Biden gave a foreign policy keynote speech at the Munich Security Conference. Europeans got all warm and excited, when Biden promised that the new administration would listen more, even though he stressed that America would also ask for more support. Europeans are not quite prepared to deliver, which French President Sarkozy emphasized by rhetorically asking in Munich: "Does Europe want peace, or does Europe want to be left in peace?" I think we learned from Japan how to be a good ally of the United States: just smile!

Endnote: European leaders are hitting the road as well and reorient their foreign policies in search of new economic deals. ABC News reports: Old Europe Reaches out to New Iraq

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the first German foreign minister to come to Iraq in more than 20 years, arrived one week after Nicolas Sarkozy visited Baghdad, the French president calling on other European countries to follow his lead "to support the peace."

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Canadian Tourism on :

On the eve of his first foreign visit, Canadian Tourism shot some videos of Canadians welcoming Obama to Canada. They're worth a look! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6bk2YjfPTg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xDQ75ypy4E http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2Lnw47SZrI

Pat Patterson on :

Traditionally the first visit the new president makes to a foreign country, well, almost foreign, is to Canada. To change that would really be the outlier. Considering the US is by far the greates source of exports for Canada and only second in imports to the US behind China, a first visit to Canada is neither unusual, aside from a misunderstanding when we burnt each others capitals almost two hundred years ago, nor terribly difficult to understand. And its certainly a grateful America that can acknowledge our almost completely unfortified border and the fact that nearly as many Canadians served in the US military during the Vietnam War as Americans headed north. Over 50,000 Americans enlisted in the Canadian military during World War II and almost 40,000 Americans enlisted as early as 1914 during World War I. Bonds like that must be maintained even when we are squabbling at the top of our lungs.

Marie Claude on :

I think that Obama's firt worries are economy, his government will be judged on it ; Canada is the most appropriated for his first visit, cuz she has Oil, and probably better results in GDP rates ; he's got to re-launch the "engine" ; also it was question to eradicate the borders like for EU... dunno how much this prodject has advanced ! If America wants to survive to this "crisis" she will reconcentrate on her inner needs, and cut down some foreign affairs budgets,

Marie Claude on :

1rs news, Obama canadian's trip : "Au menu : thon du Pacifique, omble chevalier du Nunavut fumé, bison des plaines fumé au bois de pommier, légumes racines d'hiver et champignons de la région, yogourt Saugeen et compote de bleuets et d'airelles sauvages, notamment." Got to say, it's a bit far from a New-Orleans spiced menu !!! http ://www.cyberpresse.ca/dossiers/obama-a-ottawa/200902/19/01-829023-obama-et-harper-sentendent-sur-des-priorites.php

Joe Noory on :

Pat's right. The first heads of state that a new US president meets with are the US' neighbors. Otherwise set aside the idea that Europe must be first simply because it's Europe and has a history. Asia matters too, and in many ways represents a more meaningful complex of relationships for the US. Besides having to appease European critics, there isn't much for Foggy Bottom to attend to in Europe, and little to be gained given the way European governments tend to form an exit strategy to eny joint endeavor before the endeavor starts. Concider for a moment the matter of meaningful burden sharing in Afghanistan, or pacifying Iran - there are always only qualified half-measures that come from Europe when all is said and done after years of diplomatic toncil-hockey.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

My first sentence was not supposed to come across as a criticism of Obama, but more stating the facts and serving as an introduction that Europe is not on the very top of the US agenda. And that is fine.

Marie Claude on :

yes, but you know how our friends are frustrated if we don't fit their dream of paternalism :lol:

Joe Noory on :

If Europe is not as meaningful as it would like to be to a nation like the US, or Russia, or China, it isn't matter for anyone other that the Europeans to address.

Don S on :

Canada is as good a choice as any to begin. Because it's a tradition they don't have to worry about hurt feelings elsewhere, hopefully. In terms of global importance I'd say that China might come first, but it takes a while to work out the protocols for a state visit to China or a visit to the US by the chinese head of state this won't be the first visit. Hillary Clinton made China her first stop. That was a good move but I thought she missed a trick by not following with a stop in India. Both she and Obama should be mindful of the opportunities a strengthening of the tie with India offers. Bush made the opening moves there, and Obama should follow up and confirm the warm relation there as soon as possible. India is already important and is going to be critical in coming years, hopefully as a US ally but at least as a benevolent neutral. I see India as being on a par with the UK, Germany, or France, if not more important going forward. US foreign policy needs to reflect that degree of importance.

Joe Noory on :

Obviously there are hurt feelings elsewhere, as you can see by the post. There is also one other thing going on here: the April NATO meet in Strasbourg is going to be entirely useless. In fact it's going to need a PR evasion of some sort to mask the fact that the Europeans will deny any request of greater involvement, and that even the matter of streamlining the beaurocracy at NATO will likely come off the table. Even Hutton showed his frustration and said as much. They might as well just cancel the conference at this point because whater pres does come out of it will just reveal that they needed to fill in the media coverage gap with general doctrine and housekeeping matters that don't require a summit. Brace yourself for perfunctory babble.

Zyme on :

Isn't foreign politics often about symbolism and nothing substantial? I wonder when the American side will get over the point that European nations are not as eager on getting involved. The economic downturn is the major topic today here and the search for solutions has top priority. You can imagine what role politicians from another continent play who demand increased European military efforts and spending..

Joe Noory on :

If that's the case, when will Europeans stop trying to interlock themselves in global affaires if they have no genuine interest in envolvement with anything meaningful. This is just like Marie Claude's comment imagining that the US government is seeking paternalism - you both just don't get it. American don't seek out paternalism or try to involve Europeans in things they haven't spent years demanding to be "partners" in and having to deal with theior obstructions, qualifications, and complaints. Weren't we also the isolationist rubes who don't wear shoes? So many Europeans who have chimed in on the subject don't realize that the term "world stage" is a figure of speech, not a literal reference.

Don S on :

Joe, I think the phrase 'hurt feelings' is a perceptive one on this case. I think some Europeans feel the loss of influence in global affairs and wish to be full participants. The problem is that others in their country don't wish any part of it or wish to fund the kind of capabilities which enable their country to contribute commensurate with their economic weight and percieved importance in the world. The result is as you say, they are very sensitive about slights to their role and demand a full say in policy, to the point where many in the US see them as demanding control of policy. But their inability to contribute resources and the political strictures over what they can contribute mean that effectively it appears to be demanding command over what they don't (perhaps can't) contribute.

Joe Noory on :

They SHOULD be sensitive to it. It's like feelings of guilt - a hint your mind gives you about your conscience. Largely becuse they CAN contribute. What seem to be the consencus in Europe is to try to take a transformitive role in the way the rest of the world organzies itself at little or no cost or risk to its' own. Think about it this way. On the plank, you always see statements about how NATO should involve itself more deeply in fighting the Taliban, anti-piracy, yadda-yadda, etal., but then come the obfuscation over, say, committing actual troop reinforcements to Afghanistan that ends up getting other NATO member state forces killed - the Canadians, Britons, and the US are paying the price for that incessant tease-job where a greater committment MIGHT come from rump Europa and SOUND GOOD in theory, and then doesn't materialize. It's like Lucy with the football, except Charlie Brown gets pinned down due to a lack of air support and dies. So while various European governments can't wait to sell helicopters to Iraq, they can't adequately support their lovely sounding intiatives in Chad or Afghanistan, no matter how "diplomatically sincere" the committment sounded.

Zyme on :

Joe That is an interesting assumption. Indeed it is sometimes painful to see how little interest the people have in foreign affairs here and how little they are willing to pay. But then again if you look closer, the average man/woman here is unwilling to pay for anything which doesn't immediately affect himself or herself. So this is not the core of the problem. I believe it is a matter of the European mindset: The peoples here never had to show much responsibility on foreign affairs or any other bigger affair among nations. Up until 1945 they may have been most decisive in world politics, but for the biggest part the people had no say in these times. After 1945 Europe basically became a chess board for world-powers, so no big responsibilities either. Only after 1990 they should have had this sense of responsibility - and unsurprisingly there was little to none of it. And this is where the EU comes into play: By providing a) a body like the Commission ruling over the entire EU b) which is not accountable to the electorate c) a parliament and a set of treaties too abstract for the ordinary people and press to effectively control the Commission we could very quickly return to the world stage once the European integration has reached a critical level. The entire process of European integration may be fundamentally non-democratic. But now you might get an idea why this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Zyme on :

Oh - this was intended to be a reply to Don's post above [#5.1.1.1.1] :)

quo vadis on :

[i]a) a body like the Commission ruling over the entire EU b) which is not accountable to the electorate c) a parliament and a set of treaties too abstract for the ordinary people and press to effectively control the Commission[/i] The UN?

John in Michigan, USA on :

"But now you might get an idea why this isn't necessarily a bad thing." Zyme, OK, suppose Europe wants to go the route of China - state-managed capitalism, we can't stop you. Hopefully EU bureaucrats won't be as corrupt as are China's. But if that's the direction you choose, you need to stop lecturing us about human rights. After all, isn't the right to govern yourselves the most fundamental human right? I suppose one could argue that life is a more fundamental right than democracy. One of the US founding fathers (too lazy to look it up right now) said that freedom of the pen was more important than freedom of the ballot, but that is only because he believed that the first must inevitably lead to the second. Even then, the right to vote would have to be in the top three most fundamental rights, mustn't it?

Zyme on :

"But if that's the direction you choose, you need to stop lecturing us about human rights." I never did :)

John in Michigan, USA on :

Ah, but did you ever stand up to your fellow Europeans when they lecture us? I am not necessarily talking about other Europeans on this site, I just mean, did you stand up to the general tendency of Europhiles to lecture the US on human rights? Will you stand with me on this point in the future?

Zyme on :

"Ah, but did you ever stand up to your fellow Europeans when they lecture us?" No. This has a rather subtle background, or a machiavellian if you prefer calling it this way. When people present their tirades against the US - be it in private or in public - and base them on the principle of human rights, I do not interfere. I certainly don't agree with them in this point, but I believe they are firing at the right target. Their actions (demonizing the US) help at reducing American influence in Europe, an honorable goal in my humble opinion. Furthermore as long as the US is their primary target, these agitators don't get much in the way of European governments. At the same time I am quite sure that there are others thinking similar to me who are even actively involved in organizing anti-american campaigns. But it is impossible for me to estimate their percentage in contrast to the ideologists. My guess is that there are virtually none at the basic participant level, but it could easily be a considerable proportion among those at the organizing level. "Will you stand with me on this point in the future?" That depends on the circumstances. Generally I enjoy reading your comments as you only seem to comment when you have a substantiated opinion on the issue. So as long as standing with you doesn't come into conflict with what I wrote above, I have no problem in doing so.

Marie Claude on :

So while various European governments can't wait to sell helicopters to Iraq, they can't adequately support their lovely sounding intiatives in Chad or Afghanistan, no matter how "diplomatically sincere" the committment sounded. uh, you had your part : http ://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2950154.stm ah OK, friend again : http ://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2007/08/10/total-s-allie-a-chevron-pour-explorer-le-petrole-irakien_943447_3234.html#ens_id=869296

Joe Noory on :

Interesting. A 6 year old news item on Halliburton being audited. We sometimes do government projects, and we also get audited. It's called "normal". The other item concerns Chevron, who eventually got an equal change after however many years to bid in Iraq. You might want to cast your memory back a bit to the fact that in large part US oil companies were dissuaded from bidding on anything high profile in Iraq to avoid (largely European) accusations of "no blood for oil!", which gave Shell and the Russians a nice head start in competativeness. You might also want to look at a article-collection cum Journal that the Pan-European Green Party has put out "re-engaging" with Iraq. Atlantic Initiative, a sister to this blog has reported on it, presumably to flog it as a sign that the "axis of weasel" states are engaged somehow. The only portion of it that goes into any sort of serious, plausible detail involves how Europe can access Iraq's oil, and do it [i]enthusuiastically, after the Americans leave.[/i]

Marie Claude on :

t'arrêtes de pleurer !!! I don't expect "objectives truths" from you but advertising of how great America is, and those Europeans, some "fieffés coquins", well, as fashions pass, also your style will do. Anyway, no one knows how tomorrow will be, the usual rules don't work anymore, we are kinda droven somewhere with automatic pilots that don't know where is their final harbour !

David on :

"Hillary Clinton made China her first stop." Actually, Tokyo was her first stop.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

FYI: Abramowitz says: [i]Leaders of the three largest economies should meet up in Hawaii. ++ There has never before been a summit for the US, Japan and China, but the time has come. [/i] [url=http://atlantic-community.org/index/items/view/Aloha%2C_China_and_Japan%21]http://atlantic-community.org/index/items/view/Aloha%2C_China_and_Japan%21 [/url] I would like to meet up in Hawaii as well :-)

Joe Noory on :

Gee, how would any national economy function without international summits?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Off-topic: Google Adsense is putting up a picture of Governor Palin on this page. WTF? Or does this picture just show up on my computer?

Pat Patterson on :

Beware the nones of November! It's an omen,

David on :

Makes perfect sense, Joerg. Some of her most ardent fans are frequent commenters here. My hope is that she remains the face of the Republican Party for the next few years.

Pat Patterson on :

Well, at least he didn't call us racists again! But then since Holder's comments I can only assume that David is part of that nation of cowards.

Pat Patterson on :

That comment is pretty funny coming from someone who for months began every missive with something along the lines of, "As I, and my fellow barefoot penitents, trudged through the snow and locusts going door to door for Sen Obama..." I would be willing to make a wager, and have Joerg hold the money, that not one of the regular commenters here ever said they were planning or did vote for the McCain-Palin ticket. Much less being fans!

joe on :

Pat Best future idea. Short the 5-year Treasuries. With both public and private demand for capital growing with each month, interest rates are going to have to go up and go up a lot to attract investors. There is just so much private capital left in the world. Next week the Treasury is going to peddle more than 184 Billion in notes and bills. This is just the beginning. It is still too early to start your shorts. BTW I love GE I shorted it all the way down from 18.. and out at 10. With Comrade David and his raiders in charage do it now because there is a favorable risk to reward ratio. In a year from now all of this will be like some Hail Mary pass given the tax considerations.

David on :

Pat, I'll take you up on your wager. As I recall, as late as June Obama was described as a "50-state loser" here, and you and Joe Noory were calling him a "charlatan" (Pamela's word is "fraud").

John in Michigan, USA on :

No bet. I posted on AR that I would be voting for divided government, which is my reason for voting for McCain-Palin. I was never a huge fan of that ticket, although I did defend it on those areas that I agreed with it. Mostly I was concerned about the damage that would be done by single-party rule. So far, I feel vindicated. The only configuration in the past 20+ years that has led to low [i]current account[/i] deficits or even once or twice a surplus, has been divided government. The Democratic Congress, which is the real power in this country, in spite of Obama's popularity, is on track to create record deficits. Sadly, not even divided government has the guts to address our [i]structural[/i] deficits. If Obama/Dems could do that, I might swing over to their side. But there appears to be virtually zero "danger" of that!

Pat Patterson on :

Does that make you an "ardent" fan?

John in Michigan, USA on :

Nope, there was no ardor there.

Joe Noory on :

Apart from your habit of using geo-politics as a domestic-political hobby horse, do you care one whit about the world at large?

Don S on :

She is stalking you, Joerg! ;)

John in Michigan, USA on :

I don't see any Adsense Ads at all. I tried using Firefox and IE. WTF?

Pat Patterson on :

Your charge was that there were "ardent" Palin supporters commenting here. Saying one thinks that Obama will lose is not the same as endorsing a candidate. If I said that I thought the Steelers would win the Super Bowl does that mean I am endorsing them? You'll have to do a lot better than that. I would suggest an affirmative response rather than trying to prove a negative.

David on :

Pat, this is what you wrote on the night of the election: "I just hope that if the current election trends hold that he will turn out better than expected and the rest of us don't have to suffer while he figures out where the bathrooms are." All of your disparaging comments about candidate Barack Obama are conveniently archived on this site.

Pat Patterson on :

I notice that you still have not addressed the ardent Palin fan claim and at this point I'm not to sure that saying that he turns out better than be expected is much of an indictment. Next time remember to put on shoes when trudging through the snow on the way to Canosa!

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