The former US president’s surprise victory in the Iowa caucus has shaken up the 2024 presidential race and raised concerns for the EU’s future relationship with the US.
The EU could lose one of its main allies if Trump returns to the White House with his “America First” agenda, according to Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
He told the Member of the European Parliaments (MEPs) this week that 2024 will be a critical year for democracy and freedom in Europe and the US.
He urged Europeans to be ready for a scenario where the US turns its back on them. “We should, as Europeans, not fear that prospect – we should embrace it,” he said.
But what are the main challenges and risks that the EU would face if Trump regains power?
TRADE TENSIONS One of the most likely consequences of a Trump comeback would be a new trade war between the EU and the US after a period of relative peace under the Biden administration.
Trump’s first term was marked by his decision to impose tariffs on several EU products, such as steel and aluminium, in the name of national security.
He claimed that metal imports hurt American industries and workers, especially from China. In March 2018, he announced 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminium.
Could this happen again?
The move angered many US allies, including NATO members and the EU. Previous US administrations had already taken measures to limit Chinese imports, so the tariffs mainly affected other countries.
The Trump administration offered the EU and six other key trading partners a chance to negotiate trade deals to avoid the tariffs. But the talks failed, and the EU, Canada and Mexico were hit with tariffs in June 2018.
The EU responded by filing a formal trade dispute with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and imposing retaliatory tariffs on some US products.
“It’s hard to sleep well at night. The world situation has changed. War and global instability could make the US more flexible,” said Italian MEP Tiziana Beghin, from The Five Star Movement party, to Euronews.
“But it’s also true that even with this administration, which has been more friendly and patient, we haven’t seen a very cooperative country, especially on steel and aluminium,” she added.
Will the EU lose its ally in Ukraine?
The EU is not only concerned about trade with the US but also about the fate of Ukraine, which has been at war with Russia for almost two years.
The US has been Ukraine’s prominent supporter, but the EU and the US have faced internal disputes over how to help Kyiv.
The EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said this week that the EU would find a way to give money to Ukraine, even though Hungary’s Viktor Orbán vetoed a €50-billion fund for the country.
The fund was meant to help Ukraine until 2027 and reduce its massive debt, but now the EU has no money to offer to the struggling nation.
The US is also having trouble agreeing on how to aid Ukraine. The Congress is still negotiating, but there is no deal yet.
Some Republicans want to link the aid to Ukraine to stricter immigration and border policies. This will be a vital issue in the 2024 election campaign.
But the US is deeply divided on immigration and other matters, so it may be hard to compromise, even though Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is urging more help.
If Trump wins the election in November, he could be a bad ally for Ukraine.
He is very hard to predict, according to David McAllister, an MEP from the European People’s Party. He told Euronews that Trump sometimes says he will back Ukraine, but other times, he doubts the US should do more. “You never know what he thinks,” he said.
This is just the beginning of a long race. Trump won in Iowa but still has to win more states, which may not be easy. The next challenge is New Hampshire, where he may not do well.