While many older Americans and Germans retain fond memories of the Marshall Plan, which helped turn the former foes into allies and partners, the value of transatlantic relations is no longer as obvious to younger generations in both countries. Given the value of the partnership to address transnational challenges and maintain the rule-based international order and in light of shifts on the world stage, a new narrative for the transatlantic relationship is needed. The time to establish such a new foundation is now, as Germany seems to recognize the need to take on responsibility to uphold the liberal order, while the US is torn between engagement and isolationism.
Establishing a new narrative and reinvigorating the transatlantic partnership requires new avenues and modes of cooperation, which are outlined in the policy recommendations included in this memo. Specific areas of cooperation include the digital economy and technology; trade; energy and climate; defense and military; and education policy. For cooperation to endure, current and future trends must be taken into account and addressed in this new narrative. The areas of cooperation and specific recommendations outlined in this memo are informed by the following trends, which are used either as an input or part of the framework for future cooperation.
Proliferation of stakeholders and Diffusion of Power: As compared to the era in which the German-American relationship was founded, there are now far more stakeholders at the table. The proliferation of stakeholders pertains to the public and private sectors, and to both the domestic sphere in each country as well as the range of international actors. This makes the conversation about the transatlantic relationship much broader, and power more disperse and diffuse.
Bottom Up Action: Related to the proliferation of stakeholders, the increasing agency of local and sub-national political, economic, and social actors enables new avenues for policy cooperation and innovation. Cities, towns, counties, and states are working together through sub-national organizations and clubs, while grassroots initiatives have shown the power and potential of distributed action and activity.
Digitalization: From technology and economic development to communication and socialization, digitalization has implications both for how economies are structured, how citizens interact amongst themselves and with their governments, and how modern society is constructed. Moreover, while technology firms and start-ups are a potent economic force in both societies, digitalization also has major implications for traditional industries, for example energy and manufacturing.
Anti-Globalism and Populism: While technology has the potential to knit the globe closer together, the downsides of globalization and free trade have created a backlash in many western democratic societies. This has resulted in free trade sentiments which could change the free liberal market principles and trade the transatlantic relationship was founded on, while rising populism on both the left and the right sides of the political spectrum are a symptom of larger dissatisfaction in many western societies with the representativeness of political institutions and changing economic realities due to globalization and digitalization.
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