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New US president: how EU-US relations could improve

A new US president taking office represents an opportunity to reset transatlantic relations. Find out what the EU is offering to work together on.

On 20 January, the day of Biden’s inauguration, MEPs debated the political situation in the US. They also welcomed the new president as an opportunity for Europe to strengthen EU-US ties and tackle common challenges and threats to the democratic system.

Europe and America have traditionally always been allies, but under Donald Trump the US has been acting more unilaterally, withdrawing from treaties and international organisations.

With Joe Biden taking over the reins from 20 January, the EU sees it as an opportunity to relaunch cooperation.

On 2 December 2020, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a new transatlantic agenda allowing the partners to work together on a variety of issues. The Council also reaffirmed the importance of the partnership in its conclusions on 7 December. Parliament is also looking forward to closer cooperation. On 7 November, Parliament President David Sassoli tweeted: “The world needs a strong relationship between Europe and the US – especially in these difficult times. We look forward to working together to fight Covid-19, climate change, and address rising inequality.”

Both the US and the EU have much to gain from closer ties, but many challenges and differences remain.


Although Covid-19 poses a global threat, Trump still opted to withdraw the US from the World Health Organization. The EU and the US could join forces on funding the development and distribution of vaccines, test and treatment as well as working on prevention, preparedness and response.

Climate change

Together the EU and the US could push for ambitious agreements at this year’s UN Summits on Climate and Biodiversity, cooperate on developing green technologies and jointly design a global regulatory framework for sustainable finance.

Technology, trade and standards

From genetically modified food to beef treated with hormones, the EU and the US have had their share of trade disputes. However, both have much to gain from removing barriers. In 2018 Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium, which led to the EU to impose tariffs on American products. Biden coming in as president is another chance for constructive talks.

The EU and the US could also collaborate on reforming the World Trade Organisation, protecting critical technologies and deciding new regulations and standards. The US is currently blocking the dispute resolution mechanisms established under the organisation.

The Commission has also offered cooperation on challenges linked to digitalisation, such as fair taxation and market distortions. As a lot of leading digital companies are American, the issue of how to tax them could be sensitive.

Foreign affairs

The EU and the US also share a commitment to promoting democracy and human rights. Together they could work on strengthening the multilateral system. However, in some cases they disagree on the best way to proceed.

They both face the challenge of finding the best way to deal with China. Under Trump the US has been a lot more confrontational, while the EU focussed more on diplomacy. In December 2020 EU negotiators agreed a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with China. The deal is currently being scrutinised by the Parliament. Its consent is needed for it to enter into force. The new American leadership represents an opportunity to coordinate their approaches more and better.

Iran is another topic on which the EU and the US have taken different approaches. Both the US and the EU were involved with the Iran nuclear agreement to avoid the country being able to pursue a nuclear weapon until Trump withdrew the US from it in 2018. The start of a new US president could be an occasion for a common approach.

Compliments of the European Parliament.