Since 1957, the European Union (EU) has been a constant and reliable partner of Latin America, on the one hand, and the Caribbean, on the other. It still offers a unique model of idealist interregionalism based on the promotion of its own integration model, combined with limited economic interests, soft power and, more recently, shared global visions such as sustainable development, Compared with the two bigger external actors, the United States and China, the EU is a normative actor that complements and sometimes counterbalances (in the cases of Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico) relations with the dominant power. Although, in relative terms, trade exchanges have declined since the 1990s, Latin America and the EU share a solid network of multilevel and contractual relations integrated by political dialogue, development cooperation, and investment flows. The EU signed free trade agreements plus (dialogue and cooperation) with Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, the Caribbean, and Central America. In June 2019 finalized a twenty year process of free trade negotiations between the EU and MERCOSUR. Once in force and approved by EU institutions and the four South American states, the EU-MERCOSUR association agreement will reactivate trade exchange grounded on economic, political, social and cultural cooperation between state and non-state actors. Nonetheless, it remains unclear if the 32 states involved in the mixed agreement (European Commission’s exclusive trade competences plus EU member states) will approve the deal in a foreseeable future.
Hitoshi Suzuki, Yu Suzuki, and Yoshimi Igawa
Japan and the European Union have historically developed relations, from trade conflicts to mutual cooperation between global actors. Japan’s prewar attitude and postwar rapid reconstruction caused misunderstandings and frictions, but these were gradually overcome thanks to the efforts made by Japan, the European Commission and member state governments. After the Cold War ended, policy fields of cooperation expanded from “mutual” market liberalization to foreign direct investments, aid, security, and environment. Japan and the EU jointly aided the newly liberalized countries in Central Eastern Europe, while the EU sought to strengthen its relations with countries in the Asia-Pacific. The Japan–EU Economic Partnership Agreement and the Strategic Partnership Agreement of 2018 were signed on the 50th anniversary of the customs union. The Agreements are jointly aimed by both parties to foster global free trade and shared values. For the first time in postwar history, Japan and the EU had reached an agreement before achieving one with the United States. Japan–EU relations are the strongest they have been since 1959 when the Japanese Mission to the European Communities and the European Commission Delegation to Japan were established. But the security threats in the Pacific indicate that bilateral relations between Japan and member states—the United Kingdom and France at the forefront—are still in play. The impact of Brexit, estimated to be felt more on the Japanese side, is also an issue requiring close study.
Roberto Dominguez and Joshua Weissman LaFrance
The history of the European Union (EU) is closely associated with the development of the United States. As the process of European integration has produced institutions and gained a collective international presence, the United States has been a close observer, partner, and often critic of the policies and actions of the EU and its member states. A steady progression of events delineates this path: the Marshall Plan, origins of European integration, the Cold War, the post–Cold War, 9/11 and its effects on the international system, the Great Recession, and the deterioration of global democracy. All throughout, the EU and the United States have both cooperated and collided with one another, in line with the combination of three main factors: (a) the evolution of the EU as an independent, international actor; (b) American strategies for engagement with Europe and then with the EU; and (c) the adaptive capacity and cohesion of the overall transatlantic relationship. The EU–U.S. relationship is significant not only for the influential role of the EU in world affairs but also because, as opposed to China or Russia, the transatlantic area hosts one of the most solid relationships around the world. Crises surely have been, and will be, a frequent aspect of the intense interdependences on both sides of the Atlantic; however, the level of contestation and conflict is relatively low, particularly as compared with other areas that smoothly allow the flow of goods, services, people, and ideas. Taken altogether, then, the transatlantic relationship possesses a strong foundation: it is integral, resilient, and enduring over a history of diplomatic disagreements and conflicts. The primary question remains just how this steady stream and confluence of shared challenges ultimately will fare in face of evolving crises and systemic disruptors. In any case, the answer is determined by the enduring nature, and foreign policy choices, of the primary actors on each side of the Atlantic.