[caption id="attachment_216539" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] European Union Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis addresses a crowd at a tour stop at the University of Delaware on Monday. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
WILMINGTON – In a rare show of unity in the United States, ambassadors from all of the European Union countries fanned out across Delaware on Monday to promote trade, scientific investment, climate change, human rights, and more.Led by EU Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis, a delegation of 27 European ambassadors arrived to promote a renewal of transatlantic cooperation and leadership in the backyard of President Joe Biden. The full EU visit to a state is a rare occurrence – the last occurred in Maryland in December 2019 – but is an effort under Lambrinidis, officials said.The ambassador told Delaware Business Times that the visit to Delaware wasn’t aimed to capture the president’s attention, but to promote the values that bind America and Europe.“That relationship went to lunch for a few years, and now it's back again so we are celebrating that,” he said, referring to the frosty relationship former President Donald Trump held with traditional allies.
[caption id="attachment_216573" align="alignleft" width="300"] EU Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis, left, and German Ambassador Emily Haber listen during a stop at the Port of Wilmington. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
In eight stops from Wilmington to Lewes, the delegation was clearly issuing a call to be heard by the Biden administration, with events held with U.S. Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, and Gov. John Carney. Amid that messaging though, were meetings with state officials intended to learn and network for future trade opportunities.The EU invests about $6 billion in Delaware industry, creating more than 6,000 jobs, while the First State exports $1.3 billion a year to the European bloc. The top sector of shared interest in life sciences, where companies like German-based Siemens Healthineers and Franhofer employ hundreds here. Notably, the EU bloc no longer includes the United Kingdom following Brexit, where companies like AstraZeneca are based.At an afternoon visit to the Port of Wilmington, Lambrinidis, joined by ambassadors from Germany, Spain, Belgium and Estonia, called for a thawing of trade relations between America and Europe and a continuation of global supply chains. Those comments come as the EU lobbies the Biden administration to further undo the former Trump administration’s “America First” foreign policy, including controversial tariffs on European steel and aluminum that remain in place.“The tariffs have to be lifted, that's clearly the position of the EU. We are in intense discussions as we speak,” Lambrinidis told DBT, noting that Europe recently lifted countermeasure tariffs for six months to try to coax the repeal of the American tariffs. “The tariffs were imposed on the pretext that Europe was a national security threat to the United States. This is, of course, ridiculous.”
[caption id="attachment_216570" align="alignright" width="300"] GT USA Wilmington CEO Joe Cruise answers a question from Estonian Ambassador Kristjan Prikk and Belgian Ambassador Jean-Arthur Régibeau listens during the EU delegation visit Monday. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
Lambrinidis also rejected calls by some to reshore industry as a way to kickstart national economies and protect against future pandemic disruptions.“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “When I look at supply chains now … I'm thinking of Europe and the United States as one space.”The longtime allies need to restore an equal trade relationship and then come together to address their biggest threat, China, which is producing overcapacity and with state subsidization, undercutting the global market, Lambrinidis said.As the global supply chain looks to address the issues highlighted by COVID-19, Lambrinidis said the No. 1 concern is the need for semiconductors, the computer chips that power most modern electronics. He said the U.S. and Europe have “similar alliances and similar exposures” when it comes to semiconductors.“Can the world’s two most fair economies get together and look at their supply chains and their needs and see where there are possible ways to complement each other?” Lambrinidis said, noting that partnership would protect each other’s workers and middle class despite what external forces like China are doing.The impact of Beijing’s decision-making was an underlying current through much of the day’s events, with messaging touting a united front of America and Europe working together to counterbalance the emerging Asian power.At events at the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus, the EU delegation highlighted the importance of shared values, particularly concerning climate change and human rights.When asked whether the upcoming COP26 climate summit in the U.K. could be successful after Chinese President Xi Jingping won’t reportedly attend, Sen. Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and frequent international traveler, said he believed it could.
[caption id="attachment_216537" align="alignleft" width="300"] U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, a college classmate of EU Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis, discusses the shared role that the U.S. and EU can play toward climate change. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
“I think there is a real chance that COP26 will be coming together of societies that see the climate challenge realistically and are willing to act cooperatively to put a price on imports coming from carbon-intensive economies,” he said, noting the challenge of decarbonizing base industries like automaking. “It’s a critical moment.”While the allies are closely linked on many issues, Lambrinidis and other ambassadors, like France’s Philippe Etienne, did note though that Europe has been leading the world’s climate change efforts. They hope that the Biden administration will join Europe’s more aggressive decarbonization efforts to put more teeth behind the global effort.“The most important qualities of diplomacy are patience, persistence and perseverance, the three P's, and that's what we need when it comes to climate change,” added Dan Mulhall, the Irish ambassador, referring to discouragement over inaction by China and other emerging powers like India.Lambrinidis emphasized that the power of the shared EU-U.S. position could help convince other nations to join difficult battles like decarbonization.“Sometimes we focus on China too much. I’m not saying we shouldn’t, but I’m also a little sick and tired of not focusing on the tremendous power of the EU-U.S. relationship for its own benefit,” he said. “And if we ignore those countries sitting in the middle … we're going to lose 150 potential allies, and we cannot afford that.”