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Trading Insults Across the Atlantic

What do Americans and Europeans have to say about their trade relationship?

April 3, 2002

What do Americans and Europeans have to say about their trade relationship?

The United States and Europe account for 50% of global trade. With so much at stake, it is hardly surprising that these two “big elephants” are constantly at loggerheads over an issue here — and a problem there. The latest potential trade rift erupted after President Bush’s decision to impose tariffs on steel imports. Our new Read My Lips examines what Americans and Europeans have to say about their trade relationship.

What do Europeans like least about the U.S. economic model?

“The way one deals with people.”

(Heinrich von Pierer, Siemens CEO, May 2001)

How do Americans see it?

“The Europeans resent cowboy capitalism. They resent that Americans work long hours, take their laptops to the beach — and attract the best and brightest immigrants.”

(James K. Glassman, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, July 2001)

What explains these sharp differences in opinion?

“Unilateralism, like beauty, often lies in the eye of the beholder. One man’s unilateralism is another’s determined leadership.”

(Pascal Lamy, EU Trade Commissione, June 2001)

What do U.S. CEOs think about EU regulations?

“A traffic violator in the United States has more rights than a company does during a merger in Europe.”

(Jack Welch, former GE CEO, September 2001)

What, by contrast, is a major European concern about U.S. trade policy?

“Why should developing countries commit to free and open markets when the U.S. closes its domestic market?”

(Patricia Hewitt, British minister of trade and industry, March 2002)

What else vexes European about U.S. trading habits?

“The international market isn’t the Wild West, where everyone acts as he pleases.”

(Pascal Lamy, EU Trade Commissioner, March 2002)

Is that reason for Americans to worry?

“Don’t worry about a transatlantic crisis. European leaders don’t have time for one.”

(Robert Kagan, Washington Post columnist, June 2001)

What is the real danger behind the recent U.S. steel tariffs?

“I stress prudence. As a European, I am not at ease with destroying the trading system.”

(Francis Mer, chairman of European steel producer Arcelor, March 2002)

How does the U.S. steel industry think about it?

“If we purchase a ton of steel rails from England for $20, then we have the rails — and England the money. But if we buy a ton of steel from an American for $25, then America has both the rails and the money.”

(American Iron and Steel Institute advertisement, quoting a remark in the 1850s by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, in November 2001)

Do European really object to the ‘American way’?

“The American example is on everyone’s lips — although everyone has a different opinion of what this example means for us.”

(Jean-Paul Fitoussi, professor at the Paris Institute of Political Study, May 1999)

What is one answer to European anger about alleged U.S. arrogance in business?

“If almost anyone speaks English, why waste time learning French or German? We’re the dominant economy and culture and should not look back.”

(Marco Bundy, executive vice president of Crest Products, September 2000)

Do both partners treat each other with honesty?

“My continental friends, we have spied on you because you bribe.”

(James Woolsey, former CIA director, on industrial espionage, April 2000)

And finally, in their indignation about the steel tariffs, do the Europeans have allies much closer to the United States?


(Pierre Pettigrew, Canada’s International Trade Minister, on the U.S. decision to impose tariffs, March 2002)

April 3, 2002

Prepared by Peter Schwarzer