The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama is America’s first ‘Pacific president’. Obama grew up in Hawaii and Jakarta. The ‘pivot to Asia’ is Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement. And the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the cornerstone of Obama’s trade policy. By contrast, Europe is – or at least appears to be – less important to the U.S. President. Obama has few if any obvious European roots. His attention to European security has been sporadic rather than strategic. And his determination to conclude the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) before the end of his administration is more rhetorical than real.
This conventional wisdom is pervasive. It is also misleading. The transatlantic relationship is bigger than any sitting president. Moreover, Obama’s policies toward Europe show more continuity with his predecessors than change. Relations have changed across the Atlantic despite this continuity.
Erik Jones is Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy and Director of European and Eurasian Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Senior Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford.