The John and William Show
It promises to be an interesting couple of years ahead and one in which the John and William show looks set to be a central force
So, as Hillary Clinton sets slowly in the East a new international double act emerged yesterday: the John and William Show, destined to run until at least 2015 when an unfortunate election result threatens a change in personnel. John, (as in Secretary of State Kerry), and William, (aka Foreign Secretary William Hague), were all smiles yesterday as they discussed policy at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before addressing the world’s press.
Like all good acts, this one will doubtless take some time to find its groove, but things look promising. After all, the two men know each other well enough already. The huddled masses may equate the strength of the Special Relationship to the personal rapport between the president and the PM, but there is a great deal more going on beneath the surface on a day-to-day basis.
As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry has travelled abroad in an official capacity and welcomed foreign delegates to Capitol Hill. In addition he has been a Senator of an Eastern Seaboard state with a constituency drawn heavily from Europe where he has strong family connections. And let’s not forget, as the world learned in 2004, he speaks French.
He and ‘William,’ as he repeatedly called the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, have met many times and shall doubtless do so again in the future; indeed one of Kerry’s initial remarks was to express his anticipation at the thought of welcoming Hague to DC in the near future once more.
Kerry was at pains to stress the importance of the Special Relationship, a phrase he used repeatedly throughout his remarks, both to him and to the American people and its government. It was “no accident” that his first stop overseas as Secretary of State was in London, in what Kerry referred to as a Partnership of the Heart. Shared values was a concept that he returned to time and again and his remarks and decision to visit Europe this week will go some way to remove concerns regarding the oft-mentioned ‘Pacific Pivot’ of the Obama Administration.
Coming on the heels of Leon Pannetta’s visit, and similar remarks concerning the importance of Europe and the Special Relationship, the UK should be feeling a little more secure in its relations with Washington.
The two men touched upon a wide range of issues that will compete for their attention in the coming months and years, including Syria, the Middle East peace process, Iran, Afghanistan and transatlantic trade deals. Not only was it telling how in tune the two men were on these issues, but also the degree to which it appeared; indeed this was stated, that Hague had been ‘briefing’ Kerry on a range of these issues. In an age in which we have become used to hearing about the UK being the poodle to the US, this was an interesting turn of phrase.
Both sides made reference to the need for a two state solution in the Middle East, a concept that was once unspoken and which has now become a regular refrain, but one that clearly needs to be secured. This was the stated aim of both men, as the UK promised its full support to bring the EU fully behind a US-led effort for peace and stability in the region.
Directly related to this is the on-going tensions regarding Syria and Iran. The two men were speaking before an upcoming international conference on Syria that is expected to ramp up pressure on the Assad regime, which all but Russia and China agree, must now go. Kerry used tempered language in regard to Iran and its nuclear ambitions, insisting that the window for diplomacy was still open, but that it would not remain so for long. The risk, of course, is that Iran uses such a window to develop a weapons capacity that would deter foreign intervention in the future for risk of triggering a nuclear exchange.
Of most direct interest, however, were the repeated mentions by both men of a Transatlantic Trade Agreement. Such a concept has been kicking around for years, and was raised in Washington in talks between the Major government and the Clinton administration, at which point it was seen as a good idea whose time had not quite arrived. Well, it appears that this may have changed. In an age when foreign markets are ever more attractive to the United States, TRAFTA (Transatlantic Free Trade Area?) may be a vital development. The EU is already the America’s largest trading partner so suddenly it makes sense for the United States to want to partner up.
The dilemma facing the UK, of course, is that having pushed for a trading alliance with the US in the past, such a deal is being debated at the exact moment that the future of the UK in the EU is in the balance. The UK will be unable to secure such a deal independent of EU membership and one wonders if the US enthusiasm for this deal is fuelled, in some part, by concerns that the UK could leave the EU, an outcome it has spoken against in recent months.
It promises to be an interesting couple of years ahead and one in which the John and William show looks set to be a central force.
Dr. James D. Boys is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. He is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King's College London, Associate Professor of International Political Studies at Richmond University in London and a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @jamesdboys
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