Taking Advantage of Economic and Cultural Contact Zones to Promote a Transatlantic Community
In spaces of contact between the United States and Europe where transnational identities, values, and understanding mix, transatlantic issues are most relevant. After World War II, the transatlantic alliance flourished thanks in part to the Allied Forces’ occupation of Germany. Transatlantic relations remained at the forefront for decades due to the Cold War and threat of Soviet aggression. Since the 1990’s this has changed and America has gradually withdrawn troops reducing the once high number of 200,000 military personnel to 30,000. This dwindling military presence can easily create the illusion that the transatlantic community is less connected and it’s important for transatlantic policy makers to react to this change and pivot their interests to where todays’ most important and most progressive transatlantic interactions occur, specifically between European and American companies.
40.8% of the European Union’s FDI is in the United States totaling about 2,809.2 billion Euros. Likewise, according to Ernst and Young in 2016, “Outside of Europe, the US led all FDI investments into Europe – 1,193 FDI projects and 58,437 jobs created – and is the top country globally to invest in Europe. In the finance and business services sector, the US created 558 projects and 22,425 jobs”. These investments are often consolidated in certain cities and regions, helping to build mini transatlantic communities all across the Atlantic. By focusing on these new target groups and important actors created by economic opportunity rather than military strategy, policy makers and politicians modernize the transatlantic dialogue.
These places of interaction, or contact zones, are located away from the typical political centers of Berlin and D.C. These groups are those who benefit most directly and concretely from transatlantic relations. Take, for example, the state of Tennessee. According to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, “there are 103 German-owned companies in Tennessee that have invested nearly $5.3 billion throughout the state and employ almost 14,000 Tennesseans. Germany is the second-largest source of FDI in Tennessee, behind only Japan.”. Communities like Chattanooga hosting the new Volkswagen plant benefit greatly from German investment and positive transatlantic trade policy. Deborah J. Levine describes the city after the Volkswagen plant arrived in Chattanooga: “A railroad was revived, industrial parks were developed, roads were built, vendors arrived, and new businesses sprouted up creating thousands of new jobs. Education began to include German language courses and German-style internships. Volkswagen helped fuel our passion for technology and we’re now known as Gig City. Chattanooga is becoming a Southern-style global village”. This single city, a mountain range away from Washington D.C., has developed into a prospering transnational, transatlantic community thanks to good relations between America and Europe. The economic and transatlantic transformation of Chattanooga and other cities like it such as Tuscaloosa, Alabama via Mercedes, and Spartanburg, South Carolina via BMW, shouldn’t be ignored.
These transatlantic cities are not only limited to the U.S., but can be found on both sides of the Atlantic; American company Amazon has large distribution centers across Germany, such as in Regensburg, and American company Johnson & Johnson has host of locations across the EU. These places are best adapted to be the first to implement the Atlantic Expedition Memo’s initiatives. They need to be highlighted as the new hotbeds for transatlantic interaction and thus a new source for supporters of a strong and prosperous transatlantic community. They are diverse from one another in culture, location, and political beliefs and including them in the transatlantic narrative not only modernizes it, but also expands and varies its constituents.
As laid out in part three of the first Expedition’s policy, “Bridging the Atlantic: Towards a New Education Agenda,” “students will have the opportunity to learn about and represent their national views while being challenged by increased exposure to the perspectives of individuals from different counties”. These education initiatives will be most successful centralized in communities already influenced by transatlantic relations, such as Chattanooga. From here they have the opportunity to gather success and then spread to other areas of the country. What’s more, initiatives such as the “Working Class Exchange Program” would have fewer startup issues and prosper best between workers and factories that already account for local and international employees working together. Transatlantic locations like Chattanooga, Spartanburg, or Regensburg are by default set up to accommodate for workers from both sides of the Atlantic.
While trade and economic relations make up only part of the whole that is the transatlantic alliance, better recognizing the economic, and especially cultural, impact of good trade relations between American and Europe can help boost support for a wider transatlantic agenda (economic, cultural, and political) from communities and actors that weren’t considered influential before. These communities, influenced by transatlantic corporations and spread out from Tennessee to Alabama to Bavaria, provide invaluable resources for implementing the Atlantic Expedition’s policy described in the Atlantic memo. They are prepared, by virtue of the already existing points of contact, for initiatives strategizing to build a transatlantic community. Therefore, investing politically in these communities can provide for successful pro-transatlantic policy and modern transatlantic relationship building.