As soon as Barack Obama was re-elected, Europeans began to return to Washington in great numbers to assure that the first “Pacific U.S. President” has not totally forgotten the old continent. The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, is in town promoting the idea of a free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States. As he himself admits, this German Social Democrat is going against his usual beliefs and is not really a “free trade enthusiast.” But the transatlantic relationship needs a boost, he says, and free trade seems like the way to serve important European causes, from those from Angela Merkel to David Cameron.
“The transatlantic relationship is not at its best,” Martin Schulz recognized Wednesday morning in front of a small group of European journalists interested in his visit. “I am one of those who are not sure that this transatlantic relationship is always a high priority for Americans.”
For those in favor of free trade, they are still envisioning it, as negotiations open in early 2013. “The optimists say 2015 [for the conclusion of the agreement],” said Martin Schulz. “But given the time it takes to negotiate such agreements, where the devil is in the details, we must be realistic and know that these things take time.” In Washington this week, the president of the European Parliament already criticized the maneuvers of his assembly to ban beef carcasses that have been washed with lactic acid from coming from the U.S. The European Commission is in favor of this, and the European Parliament, playing the protectionist, can easily stand up to the Americans. “And this is but a detail among hundreds and hundreds,” said Martin Schulz. “We’ll also have fun when we talk again about the entry of GMOs in the European market, or the opening of American public markets…” Interviewed Wednesday morning about his first contacts with Congress, Martin Schulz recognized that Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, seemed especially concerned by the famous American “fiscal cliff.” But the “optimists” notice that Europeans and Americans do have something in common: being stuck in perilous budgetary negotiations.