Transatlantic Dialogue Alumni Conference 2023
This years Transatlantic Dialogue Conference took place April 13th through April 16th in Coral Gables, Florida. The conference was held for former participants of the Transatlantic Dialogue Program’s yearly study tours to Germany. This year 45 participants from the US, Canada, and Europe were part of the conference. The conference started with an update by insiders regarding the political developments in Florida. Ashley Walker, a Partner at Mercury LLC highlighted key topics within Floridian political discourse, such Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’ veritable domination of the state’s politics – with a specific emphasis on social issues and school curriculum, as well as his presumptive presidential run. Walker concluded her remarks by posing the widely-debated question as to whether Desantis’ often ‘heavy-handed’ approach as governor would translate over to a national audience ahead of hotly-contested Republican primary.
The second session of this year’s conference was entitled “Exploring the Implications of the Inflation Reduction Act for Transatlantic Trade,” and featured contributions from panelists Ken Levinson, CEO of the Washington International Trade Association in Washington, DC; André Albinati, Principal, Earnscliffe Strategy Group in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Hans H. Stein, Executive Director of Zenit GmbH in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany; and Sascha Tamm, Head of Department, North and Latin America at Friedrich Naumann Foundation, based in Potsdam, Germany. [During this session, the panelists from the US, Canada, and Germany discussed the positive developments and the barriers to trade agreements between their countries. The panelists discussed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) signed into law in the United States in March of 2022 and the policy approaches that can cement the interdependence of their economies further, such as investing in infrastructure and promoting competition in markets. The panelists agreed that it is necessary to define their strategic interests as transatlantic partners in order to have greater economic independence from China. One way to address the issue of economic dependence on China, the panelists noted, would be to expand investments in scientific research and development, which will enable innovations.]
The third session focused on Canada, and featured Canada MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Greg Fergus, with comment from Meaghan Conroy of MLT Aikins based out of Winnipeg. Focus of the discussion was the political situation in Canada. Fergus started the session with an overview of the accomplishments of the Trudeau administration and the preceding 8 years of Canadian Liberal governance. He underscored numerous policy initiatives of the Trudeau government, such as the legalization of Cannabis nationwide; the Canada Child Benefit and its strong showing in the fight against child poverty in the country; the passage of a carbon tax; and the renegotiation of several key trade deals, such as TPP and with the US and EU. Fergus went on to discuss some of the challenges faced by Trudeau, as critics have pointed to the various scandals and missteps by which his administration has been plagued – including from Trudeau himself. Despite being a wildly popular figure within Canada with numerous legislative achievements, Fergus pointed to the rise of rightwing populist forces, such as Pierre Polievre, as a potential threat to continued Liberal governance.
Subsequently, Torsten Herbst MP, Member of the German Federal Parliament from Dresden gave a keynote over lunch about the state of Germany’s “Zeitenwende”, which gave insight into Germany’s domestic politics and current policy debates. Torsten Herbst MP discussed the historical turning point in Germany's foreign, defense, and security policy since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although Germany is a NATO member, for historical reasons, it has taken more pacifist positions in its defense policy. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led Germany to increase its defense spending, with the commitment to spend more than 2% of its GDP on the military, and to reduce its economic dependence on Russian natural gas. Germany has made progress towards energy independence from Russia, as demonstrated by successfully building multiple LNG terminals for natural gas within a few months. Germany is also working to stabilize its industrial base. The issue of nuclear energy, however, remains contested. While the “Zeitenwende” or turning point has already begun, there is an ongoing debate in the German Parliament on how to continue implementing these policies.
The dinner keynote was given by by Michael Link MP, Coordinator of Transatlantic Cooperation at the Federal Foreign Office. He provided insight on the state of transatlantic relations and the EU’s role and responsibilities as well as the way in which it is affected by foreign policy decisions made by the US. Michael Link MP emphasized that the EU and the US need to address the problem of authoritarianism together. The EU and the US need to develop a China strategy, a security strategy, and a trade strategy for the diversification of supply chains together as partners. This cooperation should be balanced with the need for competition and open markets. The EU should not be treated by the US as a third party, but as a partner.
The following session focused on the war in Ukraine. It featured panelists Rachel Rizzo, Senior Fellow at the Europe Center Atlantic Council in Washington, DC and Marcus Pindur, Security Policy Correspondent at Deutschlandfunk in Berlin, Germany. Major themes of the discussion included the support given to the Ukraine by the EU and the US, the consequences of statements made by Emmanuel Macron on EU-US relations, and predictions regarding the war going forward. The panelists agreed that while there has been immense resolve in providing support to Ukraine, this resolve has been largely decentralized and fragmented in nature. They also acknowledged the threat statements such as those made by Emmanuel Macron pose to the integrated nature of American and European security architectures. While the future of the war is one, which cannot be easily predicted, the panelists pointed towards the World War II era soviet material, which may be an indication of dwindling Russian supplies.
The session on Ukraine was followed by a presentation on US Public Opinion regarding China and Taiwan. An overview of polling regarding US citizens’ opinions towards China in light of its increasingly tense relationship with the US, and support for Taiwan given the growing threat China poses.
The next session focused on American politics, in form of six breakout groups, giving Canadians and Germans the opportunity to ask Americans about the current state of American politics, the findings of which were discussed during the subsequent group lunch. Common themes among the groups were issues related to the upcoming presidential election, the politicization of the courts, the future of American and global leadership, as well as select topics, which may be central to the upcoming election campaigns.
The final group discussion focused on gaining insights from participants regarding the future of the Transatlantic Dialogue program and its network, since there will be a change in leadership in the regional office at the End of 2023.
Overall, the conference yielded many engaging and informative discussions and confirmed the value that our Transatlantic Dialogue network provides for FNF North America. We are proud to have a network of such passionate and intelligent experts and look forward to future collaboration!