Europe has dominated global politics, military matters, the economy and business for 300 years. The North Atlantic became the world’s hub when the United States grew in importance and eventually surpassed Europe.
That picture has changed as new powers have emerged. This is per se good, as it enhances competition and, with competition, quality and productivity, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
Europe, however, is falling behind politically and economically. The political problem is that Europe has no foreign policy to protect its interests and no credible defence to back up its foreign policy and interests.
Europe remains a strong exporter and trade is essential. However, Europe is becoming weaker as an exporter as its economy has to bear the huge overheads caused by over-regulation, too much government and an oversized welfare state.
It is sad that Europe, with its wealth of talent, a highly educated and skilled population and strong diversification, is losing ground rapidly in a global context.
Two large free trade projects are now being discussed. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US and 11 countries on the shores of the Pacific in the east and the west. The other is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between mainly the US and the European Union. The TTIP will create the world’s largest free trade zone and would assure and protect Europe’s role in global trade.
These partnerships will boost trade and economic growth. Negotiations are advancing rapidly but there is, unfortunately, much opposition on the European side.
The opposition, driven by fear, is using consumer protection in particular as a pretext. This is a form of narrow-minded protection, especially as solutions can be found. We have to realise too that protectionism can be seen as a tool used by areas in decline - and it is always detrimental in the long term.
A likely scenario, which could become reality, sees the TPP between America and Asia materialising, while the TTIP - between North America and Europe - may not. This would create an important shift of economic activity from the Atlantic area to the Pacific, causing Europe to be marginalised.
Europe would then risk losing influence in decisions about its own destiny in a globalised world.
It was a convention that the Greenwich meridian is the zero meridian on maps. That places Europe in the centre of the globe on world maps. The Greenwich meridian was accepted globally because of Europe's importance.
If we were to place the zero meridian through the Pacific because of its economic and strategic importance that Pacific-centred map would show Europe on the far edge of the world. Europe would be a far western peninsula of the Asian continent, in an area where today’s maps place the North Pacific, somewhere between the Aleutian Islands in the northern Pacific, the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East and Hawaii.
Although this is purely symbolic, it does provide an idea of the global shift in importance. Europe would be less able to influence and shape developments in the world. But it would not mean that Europe would be left in peace.
Protectionism mars trading partnerships