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.
Roberto Dominguez and Joshua Weissman LaFrance
The African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Group of States is an intergovernmental organization established by the Georgetown Agreement in June 1975, and it consists of 79 countries across three continents. This heterogeneous cluster of countries, originally bound by their colonial ties with the member states of the European Union (EU), came together out of the need to form a common front in the negotiations of the first ACP–EU partnership. The spirit of the Lomé Convention (1975–2000), initially considered a very progressive model of North–South cooperation, gradually evaporated; thus, the Cotonou Agreement (2000–2020), with its profound changes in the areas of aid and trade, was an attempt to normalize relations between the two blocs. The overall patchy record of the various ACP–EU partnership agreements and a number of events—notably, decreased interest within the EU, intensification of regionalization dynamics in the ACP Group, and adoption of separate strategies for cooperation with African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries and regions—cast doubts upon the relevance of the ACP–EU framework and threatened the existence of the ACP Group. Unsurprisingly, the launch of the negotiations in September 2018 for a new ACP–EU partnership was not without difficulty. While there are no doubts that the ACP Group has intrinsically been linked to the EU, at the same time it should be noted that it has attempted to promote intra-ACP cooperation, although with mixed successes at best, and to strengthen its presence in the international arena and diversify its partnerships, also in this case with limited results. Indeed, despite various pledges to support the principles of unity and solidarity, the effectiveness of the ACP Group has been compromised by the interplay of a plurality of interests, limited financial resources, and a perceived delinkage of the Brussels-based institutions from ACP national capitals. The revision of the Georgetown Agreement in December 2019, including the transformation into the Organisation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), is an attempt to reinvigorate the ACP Group, with stronger emphasis on financial sustainability, joint action for the pursuit of multilateralism, and, importantly, increased autonomy from the EU.
More Americans than ever before believe that money in politics weakens our democracy. Public opinion polls show that the number of people who believe that the country is run by a few big interests looking after themselves rose to nearly 80% over the past 20 years. The belief that corporate interests drive public policy is not all that surprising when you consider the growth of lobbying in the United States. According to the Center for Responsive Government, from 1998 to 2016, the amount of money spent on lobbying the U.S. government grew from $1.45 billion to $3.12 billion with well over 10,000 lobbyists in Washington. With this all this money attempting to influence policy outcomes in Washington, it is no wonder that Americans are skeptical of the intentions of government officials. However, political scientists have found a more mixed result when it comes to the actual influence of money on politics. One study asked if the amount of money spent on any given issue really influences policy outcomes. Other studies have shown some benefit to the private parties that lobby. Thus despite significant research on the topic, there is little agreement among political scientists on just how lobbying influences political actors or if lobbying directly impacts policy results. When it comes to foreign policy, corporate lobbies are an ever-present influence in the crafting of government policies. Whether in the European Union or the United States or other countries around the world, corporate lobbies view representing their interests in a truly global fashion. While corporate interests are investing in shaping foreign policy in a variety of issues areas such as defense spending, arms sales, contractors on humanitarian missions, one area is particularly vulnerable to corporate influence—trade and finance. Research shows that U.S. trade politics is heavily influenced by the lobbying of business organizations and trade associations. In fact, the U.S. administration often relies on interested corporate parties to provide it with both the expertise that shapes the agreement itself and the political case for trade liberalization that shapes the public pro-trade campaign. In turn, corporate lobbying for trade agreements is a costly and involved process. For example, during the eight years of negotiations over the TransPacific Partnership Agreement, a regional trade agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, corporations paid $2.6 billion dollars to lobbyists to influence the content of the agreement and to promote it to Congress and the American public. An overview of the literature on corporate lobbying and an examination of the case of U.S. trade shows a particular example of how corporate lobbying works to influence foreign policy.