Two of the main points of contention between the European Union and President Trump are trade and military spending. Scrape away the rhetoric presented in the mainstream media, most of it reflexively anti-Trump, the fact is that what the president is demanding is nothing but what’s fair and reasonable. As regards trade, Europe currently has significantly more barriers to our exports than America does to theirs. As for military spending on NATO, it is universally recognized that the United States carries the bulk of defending Europe.
At first blush, recent news indicates that Europe is moving in the right direction under U.S. pressure. At the recent NATO conference, countries in the alliance committed to up their defense spending — somewhat. And the tentative agreement between Trump and European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker for the EU to move to free trade and to buy more U.S. LNG is also a good start. Juncker also said Europe will work with America on curbing China’s theft of technology and intellectual property.
But let’s be realistic. Words and promises are one thing, deeds are another. Countries in Europe have long promised to increase their military spending but few have and some have actually decreased their defense spending. As for LNG, what’s the big concession? Energy-poor Europe needs it, and the U.S. has it. Same with addressing China’s aggressive mercantilism; Europe suffers from it as does America.
On trade in general, Europe will find it hard, if not politically impossible, to open up. There are several reasons why aside from the natural tendency for people to want to keep whatever advantages they have had for a long time.