Myron Brilliant
Former Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


March 25, 2020


Nations around the globe are grappling with the public health and economic consequences of the coronavirus. Pandemics know no borders. No single country, no matter how powerful, can defeat this threat alone. American business understands this fully and is working across the globe to facilitate the cooperation needed to stem the crisis, rebuild supply chains, restore commerce, and eventually, revive growth.

At this time of crisis, the United States and Europe should be the leading drivers of a global response to the mounting health and economic challenges. As the world’s two largest and most open markets, the U.S. and Europe are uniquely positioned to demonstrate collective leadership at this critical moment by ensuring that goods needed for the pandemic response can flow unimpeded and by keeping essential services running. Working together will strengthen our economic partnership and rebuff mounting pressures to pull up the drawbridges and focus inward.

The protectionist temptation is undeniable, but we must not forget the lessons of the Great Depression: measures that hinder the trade and investment flows between our regions are counterproductive, especially at a moment of significant economic peril. European nations and the U.S. must avoid imposing additional burdens on industry at this critical time, whether through tariffs, export controls, or “buy local” requirements, which raise costs, sap competitiveness, and dampen job creation.

Instead, the U.S. and Europe should be focused on fighting the virus, sharing best practices, and collaborating to find a cure. As one important first step, the U.S. and Europe should champion global efforts to eliminate all tariffs on medicines and medical equipment.

But much more can be done.

This is not a uniquely American problem or a European one. Every industry and companies of all sizes are affected by the slowdown in commerce on both sides of the Atlantic. While some short-term disruption of trade is unavoidable, we can take collective measures to strengthen the ties that have brought us unprecedented prosperity in the post-war era.

This week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AmCham EU will release the Transatlantic Economy 2020 report. The annual compendium once again demonstrates the extraordinary upsides of the relationship. More than $3.8 billion in goods and services cross the Atlantic every single day, and we remain each other’s largest source of foreign direct investment. Sixteen million jobs rely on these trade and investment links.

Advances in the digital economy also are deepening transatlantic connections every day. In 2019, both sides set all-time highs for services exports to the other market. This digital connectivity is proving its worth in real time, as millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic are teleworking. U.S. companies are also providing much needed energy, helping reduce Europe’s dangerous overreliance on Russian gas, while also leading the way in reducing carbon emissions by investing in renewable energy sources to support their European operations.

At a time when both the U.S. and Europe are facing economic hardship, we should double down on our strengths. We must continue to work in partnership to enable a policy environment that promotes innovation and protects personal privacy, foster economic prosperity as we address challenges arising from climate change, and jointly lead efforts to set rules that reflect the realities of today’s global trading system — and ensure all actors play by those rules. Meaningful efforts to resolve longstanding transatlantic disputes also must not be set aside.

Now more than ever the U.S. and Europe can shine a light on a shared path back to growth and prosperity.

About the authors

Myron Brilliant

Myron Brilliant is the former executive vice president and head of the International Affairs Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.