If Trump is reelected, the Netherlands must fight to keep the U.S. on its side, especially in NATO, according to Sven Koopmans and Arne Weverling.
Many Dutch citizens hope that Democrat Joe Biden will win the U.S. presidential election next month and that Biden’s election will revitalize our ties with the United States. But we also need to think about what the Netherlands and the European Union should do if Donald Trump is reelected for another four years.
Tuesday’s opinion polls estimate that possibility at 22%; however, some polls estimated the chance of Trump’s victory in 2016 at barely 1%.
Soon after the election, Trump could cash in on his harsh anti-China rhetoric by cutting ties with the Chinese economy as much as possible, and then force Europe to take America’s side.
But on the other hand, Trump could also bet on a sudden U.S. protectionist deal with Beijing. After the election, there is no reason to increase tensions further, and so he could reap short-term benefits for American producers.
In either scenario, we would suffer from a severe restriction of free world trade. That is why we must convince Trump to first conclude a trade agreement with the European Union and thus become part of a combined force in negotiations with China.
It is therefore time that Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag of the D666 pay more attention to our trade interests in addition to her focus on development cooperation. If we fail to keep the Americans and Europeans together, we will have to pursue our own assertive economic policies, reinforced with partners such as Australia, Japan and India.
To underscore this point, as long as Trump continues to frustrate the World Trade Organization and continues to abuse China as a “developing country,” we must prepare to continue the WHO’s work without the U.S. and China if necessary.
While China differs much more from the Netherlands in economic policy than the U.S., a new Trump administration would probably diverge far from us in environmental and climate policy.
It is precisely in this area that Beijing has gained more insight in recent years. With four more years of Republican rule in Washington ahead, and in light of ongoing Chinese assertiveness in Asia and human rights abuses domestically, joint environmental improvement projects could be a rare bridge on which Europe and China could still meet. But the main concern for a new Trump term would be a possible U.S. withdrawal from NATO. His former senior advisers claim they prevented him from taking this step during this first term. A NATO without the U.S. would be disastrous for the security of Europe, because without the Americans we simply cannot defend ourselves sufficiently against Russian aggression. A reelected Trump will likely be even less understanding of low European defense spending.
Given geopolitical threats, it was already essential to invest more in our military, but now it is also necessary to continue to convince the Americans about the importance of our alliance. It is therefore naive and dangerous that the Forum for Democracy, GroenLinks and the Socialist Party are openly playing with the idea that the Netherlands itself should leave NATO. This is a huge gift to Vladimir Putin that also sends the wrong signal to Trump.
At the same time, we must stop our House of Representatives from pointing out everything that is wrong in America. The democratic constitutional state there has to solve its own problems. Our highest priorities are Dutch security, self-preservation and jobs. That is why we must do everything we can to keep NATO intact and promote trade ties. We have learned in recent years that America is different from Europe. The trans-Atlantic link is too important to lose to wishful thinking.