The links between the peoples of the United States and the European Union have always been strong and remain so. Ties of family and kinship have been the very core of this close historical relationship. The tradition of European emigration to the United States goes back beyond the Pilgrim Fathers and has continued ever since. These personal links have endowed both societies with common cultural, religious and philosophical traditions.
The United States and the European Union are by far each other's major economic partner. In 1995 they accounted for some 19% of each other's total trade in goods. In services the figures are even more striking: more than 31% of US trade in services in 1994 was with the EU. The figure in the other direction was almost 39%. The trade relationship is not only large, but it is also largely balanced. For American companies, the European market is four times bigger than Japan. One in every twelve manufacturing jobs in the United States is in a European owned factory. The EU and US also have by far the largest investment relationship in the world. The EU accounts for nearly 66% of all foreign direct investment in the US, and receives some 45% of total US foreign direct investment abroad. Together, the United States and the European Union account for over one third of world trade in goods, and almost a half of world trade in services.
The EU-US New Transatlantic Agenda (NTA) was signed by the EU and US government in 1995 to further co-operation and integration between the two. One of four major goals of NTA underlines that "building bridges across the Atlantic to bring together business people, scientists, educators, and others to improve communication and to ensure that future generations remain committed to developing a full and equal partnership." A series of people-to-people civil society dialogues including those for business (TABD) and consumers (TACD) have developed including the Transatlantic Environment Dialogue (TAED).
The NTA identifies a whole range of initiatives on which the EU and the US cooperate, and expands this cooperation into a number of other areas. These initiatives are listed in more than a hundred action points, under four headings. The progress made with the NTA and the Joint Action Plan is discussed at the biannual EU/US summit, which is attended by the US President and an EU delegation comprising the head of government of the country holding the EU Presidency and the President of the European Commission. Ministers may also take part in the talks.
At the EU/US summit in May 1998 the Transatlantic Economic Partnership initiative was launched, comprising two components. The bilateral component aims to remove technical trade barriers in the field of goods, services, intellectual property and government procurements. The multilateral component centres on a structured dialogue to prepare the way for a new multilateral liberalisation round within the framework of the WTO.
The Transatlantic Declaration issued in 1990 laid the foundations for the widening and deepening of the partnership between the EU and the US. It culminated in the adoption of the New Transatlantic Agenda (NTA) and Joint Action Plan in Madrid in 1996. In order to create a satisfactory structure for consultations on worldwide problems, joint working groups have been set up and multi-year programmes devised on subjects such as the environment, international crime and drug trafficking.
The legitimacy of the narrow Transatlantic Economic Partnership agenda is brought into question by the lack of democratic process in the way it was created.
The EU governments have made only feeble protest at the 1999 votes by the US Congress to slash funding for the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. Congress has also refused to allow Washington to pay off its appalling debts to the UN and to match what other rich countries are doing to write off the poorest countries' debt. Such decisions created a dangerous environment for the future of the transatlantic partnership. Indeed, issues of political principle are more important to the long-term health of EU/US relations than trade differences.