The EESC's Transatlantic Relations Follow-up Committee met just days ahead of the high‑level EU-US summit, marking the importance of civil society's transatlantic dialogue. Amongst a wide range of subjects to work together on, the meeting put special emphasis on issues of climate change and trade.
Encouraging signals on all fronts are coming from both sides of the Atlantic in efforts to renew and strengthen our partnership, said Christian Moos, president of the Transatlantic Relations Follow-up Committee of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).
The president of the EESC's REX section, Dimitris Dimitriadis, welcomed all the promising developments since the Biden administration took office and reassured participants that the EESC put the highest priority on its transatlantic files.
The Committee met on 7 June, hosting a number of prominent guests, who expressed their enthusiasm for a renewed transatlantic friendship and stressed the importance of civil society in building stronger bridges across the Atlantic.
For ambitious global climate goals
After the Leaders' Climate Summit and ahead of the COP 26 meeting in November, powerful signals were sent for a common goal of ensuring a sustainable planet for future generations. David Livingston, senior advisor to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, expressed his appreciation for the EU's leadership during the Trump years:
The EU continued forward with its own robust domestic agenda but also shouldered an extraordinary share of the global burden.
The current administration is now fully committed to meeting and going beyond the Paris agreement objectives, according to Mr Livingston.
It will not be acceptable, he said,
for major key player countries and major economies to let 2021 go by without substantial updates to their National Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are at the heart of the Paris Agreement.
The enthusiasm and commitment coming from all areas of everyday life allowed the US to maintain an engagement, despite the absence of commitment from the previous US administration. The objectives were supported by the active participation of civil society in the US together with the EU and other countries, noted Elina Bardram, head of the International Relations Unit at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA).
Jeanne-Marie Huddleston, director-general at Canada's Bilateral Affairs and Trade Directorate, Environment and Climate Change, made reference to the long record of successful cooperation on climate change between Canada and the EU, under both the EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
Ms Huddleston was pleased to have the US,
our closest neighbour, on board again to address the climate crisis.
For a positive trade policy
Matthias Jørgensen from the European Commission's DG TRADE presented the state of play, challenges and opportunities for the new transatlantic trade policy. The positive atmosphere was shared by Emilie Bel from the Atlantic Council, who stressed that Europeans were ready to build a positive trade agenda – but on an evenly balanced basis – and explored possibilities for the future transatlantic trade agenda.
Marjorie Chorlins from the US Chamber of Commerce affirmed that, despite transatlantic political turbulence and the COVID-19-induced recession, the US and Europe remained each other's most important markets. The recently published Transatlantic Economy 2021 report demonstrated that the two partners represent a substantial portion of global consumption and global GDP.
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, focused on civil and consumer rights, with a very clear overview of recent years and an optimistic view of opportunities for transatlantic cooperation in the future.
Tanja Buzek, president of the EESC's International Trade Follow-up Committee, said that the partnership's vision should be much broader for sustainable trade and a just transition,
as we share the same values. She stressed the importance of civil society involvement in terms of transparency on trade policy and also commented on the need for strong coalitions to reform and strengthen the role of the WTO.
*The EESC is currently working on an own-initiative opinion entitled A strong transatlantic partnership based on the common values of democracy and the rule of law, key in tackling global challenges and preserving the international order.