The European Union is the biggest trading partner of the United States and is linked to this country by culture, tradition and cross-investments as well as by common economic and political interests embodied within international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The United States were in 2000 the EU's leading investment partner: almost half of the extra-EU investments by Member States went to the United States (EUR 147 out of EUR 304 billion), and almost 80% of investments by non-member countries in the EU came from the United States (EUR 98 out of EUR 125 billion). From the political viewpoint, the United States has always supported European integration. This has not prevented strong economic antagonism between the two richest regions of the planet.
The fall of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower led to the adoption on November 22, 1990 by the United States on the one hand and by the European Community and its Member States on the other of a joint transatlantic declaration. Considering that their relationship is a vital factor for political stability in a changing world, the two parties confirmed their commitment to continuing and developing cooperation on an equal footing and, for this purpose, they agreed to consult one another on important subjects of common interest and to intensify their dialogue in a formal contact structure. The transatlantic agenda, signed in 1995, completed the Transatlantic Declaration and organised the cooperation between the two partners around four pillars: promoting peace, stability, democracy and development throughout the world, responding to global challenges, contributing to the expansion of world trade and closer economic relations, and establishing closer ties between the partners. In addition, an agreement between the European Community and the United States established a cooperation programme in the field of higher education and vocational training [Agreement and Decision 95/487].
After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 against the United States, the European Council meeting in extraordinary session on 21 September 2001 declared its total support to the American people in the face of the deadly terrorist attacks and its willingness to cooperate with the United States in bringing to justice and punishing the perpetrators, sponsors and accomplices of such barbaric acts [see section 8.2.3]. On 8 October 2001, the Council (of ministers) declared that the military action taken by the US in self-defence and in conformity with the UN Charter and the UNSCR 1368 was part of a wider multilateral strategy in which the European Union was committed to playing its part, including a comprehensive assault on the organisations and financing structures that underpin terrorism.
However, transatlantic relations are often a controversial subject for the EU, since the degree of solidarity with the United States differs considerably from one European country to another. It is, therefore, usually difficult to work out a common reaction to the initiatives of Washington. In general, the vision of the world and of international relations of the USA, which is largely based on national interest and the use of military force, is basically contrasting with the concept of international law that the European nations tend to place above national law. Even the best friends of the USA in Europe are sad to see the new American policy depart from the rules of international law, enacted with the active participation of the USA themselves, on issues such as: the ratification of the Kyoto protocol for the reduction of atmospheric pollution [see section 16.3.4]; the exemption of American citizens from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court for war crimes [see section 8.1.2]; the disrespect of the rules of the World Trade Organisation in general and particularly concerning the huge increase in American farm subsidies (70%) and the protection of American steel products; the invasion of Iraq without agreement of the UN Security Council; and, last but not least, the uneven interposition in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. On all these subjects the transatlantic declaration of 1990 has not served as a basis of dialogue and cooperation between equal partners. If this situation continues, the European Union will, sooner or later, adopt a foreign policy, which will increasingly diverge from that of the USA.
Before the ascendancy of the neoconservative policy in the United States, the transatlantic dialogue had given some good results. It had permitted a better coordination of respective policies concerning aid to Central and Eastern European countries, Russia and the Independent States, the conflict and the management of peace in former Yugoslavia and the Middle East peace process. In the Uruguay Round, the Blair-House pre-agreement, concluded on 28 November 1992 between the United States and the EU, was a pre-condition for the conclusion of the GATT multilateral trade negotiations. Moreover, a number of trade differences have been settled, notably the ones on trade in large civil aircraft [Agreement and Decision 92/496] on veterinary matters concerning fresh bovine and porcine meat [Agreement and Decision 93/158] and on openness in the field of public procurement of the two parties [Agreement and Decision 95/215, see section 23.4]. In order to resolve the banana dispute, i.e. the EU helping ACP banana suppliers adapt to the new common market conditions, the common market organisation for bananas was integrated into the common organisation of agricultural markets and is nowadays regulated by specific provisions for certain agricultural products (Single CMO Regulation) [Regulation 1234/2007].
Nevertheless, several disputes persist. Americans have taken action against European legislation, notably: the hormones Directive [Directive 96/22], preventing meat imports from third countries, like the United States, which do not prohibit the fattening of livestock with hormones. A large number of the complaints lodged by the EU with the dispute-settlement body of the WTO concern the US. Following the US decision to impose extraordinary tariffs of up to 30% on steel imports, the Commission, with the consent of the Parliament and the Council, adopted a regulation instituting safeguard measures on certain iron and steel products [Regulation 1694/2002 and Regulation 2142/2003] and opened a safeguard investigation into those products in order to counter the adverse effects of the US decision on the European steel market. The EC/EU started on 7 March 2002 a dispute settlement procedure at the WTO calling for consultations to be held pursuant to WTO rules. The EU obtained satisfaction and the safeguard measures were repealed with effect from 8 December 2003 [Regulation 184/2004]. The EU has concluded a memorandum of understanding with the U.S.A. regarding the importation of beef from animals not treated with certain growth-promoting hormones and increased duties applied by the United States to certain products of the European Union [Revised Memorandum of Understanding and Decision 2014/44].
It should be noted that the United States lost 17 trade disputes out of 19 in WTO in 2002, but their legislation has not been changed in any way as a result. Thus, the US anti-dumping act of 1916, which provides for civil and criminal proceedings and penalties against dumping, was found incompatible with the obligations imposed by the World Trade Organisation. Therefore, the EU is protecting its businesses against the effects of the application of this US Act, and actions based thereon or resulting therefrom [Regulation 2238/2003]. The protective measures comprise a prohibition on the recognition and enforcement in the EC of court or administrative decisions based on the 1916 anti-dumping act, and the possibility for EC companies or individuals to counter-sue to recover any outlays, costs, damages, interest and expenses caused by the application of the act in breach of WTO rules. Moreover, the European Union suspended, vis-à-vis the United States, the application of tariff concessions and related obligations concluded under GATT, in accordance with the arbitration decision of 31 August 2004, finding that the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act (CDSOA) was incompatible with the United States' obligations under the WTO agreements [Regulation 673/2005].
The EC/EU's relations with Canada have originally been based on a cooperation agreement between Euratom and Canada on the peaceful use of atomic energy [1959 Agreements and 1995 Agreement], on a cooperation agreement between the EEC and Canada on commercial and economic cooperation [Framework Agreement and Decisions and 1998 Agreement] and on a fisheries agreement [1993 Agreement and Regulation 3675/93]. The two parties adopted on November 22, 1990 a joint declaration based on the preferential relations introduced by the framework cooperation agreement which reinforces the institutional framework for consultations in order to give them a long-term horizon. The EU-Canada Partnership Agenda adopted on 18 March 2004, identifies ways of working together on global challenges such as the environment, climate change, energy security and regional stability throughout the world. Furthermore, the two parties have adopted a Comprehensive economic and trade agreement (CETA), creating, among other things, an expanded and secure market for their goods and services through the reduction or elimination of barriers to trade and investment [Agreement Canada-EU, OJ L 11, 14.01.2017].
The good cooperation between the EU and Canada is manifest in sensible fields such as animal-health regulations and trade in alcoholic beverages [Agreement last amended by 2004 Agreement] as well as in the new fisheries agreement between the EU and Canada, concluded in the framework of the North-West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) [Decision 95/586]. Canada participates in EU civilian and military crisis management operations [Agreement and Decision 2005/851].