Why Europe is rooting for Hillary Clinton?

European leaders watched Trump's ascent first with dismay and then with growing alarm. Some offered uncharacteristically blunt assessments of his fitness to be a party nominee, and their preferred electoral outcome.

By Richard Maher (Geopolitics)

Published: Sun 6 Nov 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 7 Nov 2016, 1:00 AM

While Hillary Clinton has not garnered the same level of enthusiasm across Europe as current US President Barack Obama received in 2008 or 2012, European leaders are breathing easier given Clinton has a slight edge over Donald Trump. Earlier polls showed a real possibility that Trump could win the election and become the 45th president of the United States, an outcome that was seen as catastrophic across Europe.
European leaders watched Trump's ascent first with dismay and then with growing alarm. Some offered uncharacteristically blunt assessments of his fitness to be a party nominee, and their preferred electoral outcome. French President François Hollande said that Trump "makes you want to retch". Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi criticised what he called Trump's "policy of fear", and made clear his "very strong" support for Hillary Clinton. German foreign secretary Frank-Walter Steinmeier called Trump's portrait of the United States as being beset by internal and external enemies "grotesque", and warned that a Trump presidency would lead to "many uncertainties for the trans-Atlantic relationship".
For European leaders thinking about the election, the major issues occupying attention include the future of the NATO alliance; the West's relations with Russia; and whether the moribund Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) can or should be revived. Clinton supports the expansion of free trade agreements less enthusiastically than Obama, who pushed hard during his presidency for both the Trans-Pacific Partnership
(TPP) and TTIP. As president, Clinton is unlikely to make TTIP a priority.
Even if Clinton decides to push for the conclusion of TTIP negotiations, however, diminishing popular appeal in both parties for new free trade agreements will make it hard for her to get it ratified by Congress, even though many economists on both sides of the Atlantic have said that the agreement would create jobs and give an important boost to sluggish economic growth in the EU. If the talks fail, Europe may lose more than just greater access to transatlantic trade and investment. Its ability to promote its values and set global standards - in areas such as workers' rights, environmental protection, and sustainable development - through trade would take a hit.
A Trump victory on November 8 would be viewed across European capitals as calamitous. While Clinton is well known to European leaders, they view Trump as erratic, unpredictable, and even unstable. Trump's views regarding NATO, his overtures to a revanchist and increasingly authoritarian Russia, and his opposition to the expansion of free trade deviate in profound ways from America's approach to Europe since the end of the second world war - an era that has spanned twelve presidential administrations, six Democratic and six Republican.
European leaders are also worried that a Trump victory might embolden their own national populist movements. Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right National Front, has said that (given a vote) she would opt for Trump. Nigel Farage, a major figure in the successful campaign for the UK to leave the EU, has appeared on the campaign trail with Trump. Anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders appeared at a fringe event of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, praising Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigration into the United States. For all these reasons and more, leaders across Europe are rooting for a Clinton victory on November 8, some quietly and some more openly.
The writer has previously taught at the Wheaton College and the University of Rhode Island. His main research areas include history and theory of European integration, and Europe's external relations.
Excerpted from The Conversation

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