Can Lithuania benefit from improved relations between the US and the UK or China and Germany?

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Strengthened relations between the USA and the UK suit our interests because Theresa May is highly supportive of NATO and urges Donald Trump to be wary of Vladimir Putin, commentators tell „Of course this will not prevent D. Trump from establishing relations with Russia, but we will benefit from if a sort of “chemistry” develops between them,” political scientist Laurynas Kasčiūnas says. However another developing friendship, that of Germany and China may not be well received by the new President of the United States, though analysts tell that a successful conclusion is unlikely in this case.

During a Republican Party convention in Philadelphia, British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke of how the US and UK should renew their special relationship and return to leadership together once more. The British PM stated that she can work with Donald Trump despite their differing styles – “sometimes opposites attract”.

“Our – the UK and the USA’s – interest is to remain strong together and defend our values, interests and ideas that we believe in,” PM May stressed in her speech.

T. May is prepared to begin negotiations of a UK-US free trade agreement which would come into power after Brexit which will likely result in Great Britain’s withdrawal from the European common market which has 500 million consumers.

At almost the same time German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang announced they would seek to strengthen trade links, Bloomberg writes.

German government press representative Steffen Seibert announced that the two heads of state spoke on the phone about both bilateral and multilateral issues. The representative also added that Li Keqiang agreed with A. Merkel’s proposal to visit Germany for further discussions.

It is noted that the final negotiations could happen already this July when A. Merkel hosts the G20 summit in Hamburg.

US-UK friendship would strengthen Euro-Atlantic security

Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) professor, political scientist Tomas Janeliūnas describes the improved relations between the US and UK, as well as Germany and China as a potential alternative for the fracturing international trade system.
“First of all there are many doubts whether current agreements will remain, whether it is possible to create new ones between the US and the EU, between the EU and Pacific Ocean region countries’ trade blocs. As one trade system fractures, alternatives are pursued and the only alternative is likely strengthening of bilateral relations. This does not mean that the alternative would be better, but something has to come into the void left by the old system,” the expert explained.

According to him American and British cooperation is a particularly positive event in terms of Euro-Atlantic security. On the other hand the British have no further alternatives – they desperately need good relations with the Americans if they are preparing to separate from the EU.

“In this regard Theresa May has little other choice, it does not even matter who leads the USA. However we see D. Trump’s doubt in the importance of NATO, thus there is need for countries that believe in NATO to maintain as positive relations with D. Trump as possible in the hopes of proving to him that NATO is an important instrument of ensuring security, necessary both for European and global stability,” T. Janeliūnas commented.

Political scientist and member of Seimas L. Kasčiūnas also has no doubt of the UK’s need to develop such bilateral relations and this partnership, according to him, suits both the interests of Donald Trump and us.

“The British are exiting the EU, thus they need to seek a new model of relations with Brussels, but equally so they now have their hands freed to seek bilateral relations with anyone else. This suits D. Trump’s desire for bilateral relations. Both countries are interests and I believe they will find some sort of model of economic cooperation.

Furthermore PM May’s links to President Trump could at least partially buffer his negative intentions – flirting with Russia and such. It is beneficial for us if they establish good relations because the British understand the security problems of our region. Of course this does not mean that it will obstruct D. Trump from building a relationship with Russia, but if a “chemistry” develops between him and T. May, we would be far better off,” L. Kasčiūnas said.

German relations with China can anger Trump?

Lithuanian ambassador in Germany Deividas Matulionis notes that Germany has recently been focusing on economic links with China.

“However I would like to stress that there is interest from the German side, but the agreement would have to be between the EU and China because the EU cannot form bilateral agreements. The Chinese Prime Minister has recently called Chancellor A. Merkel and from their side a great deal of interest can be seen. Perhaps this is a certain Chinese response to what is happening on the other side of the world.

While there is more initiative to be seen from the Chinese side, in Germany this new direction has also been received favourably. Some say that this is an opportunity for Europe, however for now nothing specific is happening. Also there is the question of China as a free market country being raised and there are numerous opinions of this in Europe,” Matulionis told

L. Kasčiūnas states that D. Trump, having decided to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and having spoken of reducing Chinese competitiveness compared to the USA, has moved the Chinese to seek trade partners in Germany, and all of the EU alongside.

“It is paradoxical – D. Trump is speaking how he will compete with the Chinese and will seek to limit Chinese competitiveness in relation to the USA, but at the same time he is withdrawing from the TPP which in essence would have meant greater American power in comparison to China – by forming a trade bloc the USA and other countries could talk to the Chinese in one voice. He wants to control the Chinese, but with this decision, which he is likely using to defend his domestic market, he is untying the China’s hands.

The Chinese immediately proposed a trade bloc to other members of the partnership. However there are many nuances in the Sino-EU relations, among them – questions of human rights and democracy. It is also important that the Germans will be unable to make a separate trade deal with the Chinese, they can only agree on some contracts between companies. Such tactical games, showing D. Trump that there can be combinations without his participation, are possible, however I do not believe this is a breakdown of the system where the Germans and Chinese can establish cooperation at the strategic level,” said L. Kasčiūnas.

In turn T. Janeliūnas notes that warming relations between China and Germany will depend on whether the Germans believe in the EU’s future prospects.

“The EU’s “weight” in negotiations with partners is far more significant, individually even countries such as Germany or France cannot expect any big advantage because China, as a market, as a potential trade partner, is far larger than any other country, thus such individual effort would, in my opinion, not benefit any EU country. It could occur only in such a case where even the large EU countries cease believing in the vitality of the EU,” Janeliūnas explained.

The experts‘ opinions differ on whether improvements Chinese relations with Germany or even the entire EU could place a wedge in EU-USA relations. According to L. Kasčiūnas such improvements could displease Donald Trump, but the Germans themselves understand that it would not be beneficial for them to clash with the United States. Meanwhile T. Janeliūnas notes that if Trump sees the USA as a fairly isolated economy, he should have few issues with others seeking alternatives, opportunities for more active trading.

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