One positive development out of the Summit at Hamburg (or what is left of the Hanseatic hotspot after all the rioting) is that European resentment of America is now out in the open. This is well marked in the Sunday New York Times in a dispatch by Steven Erlanger, who reports that the Europeans have “stopped trying to paper over their differences with President Trump and the United States.”
A lot is going to be written about this in the coming weeks, no doubt, but one of the points to mark is that such resentment is not new. Brussels, seat of the European Commission, was seething with anti-Americanism back when our editor was there in the 1980s. The president of the commission at the time, the French socialist Jacques Delors, famously lashed out at America’s “savage economy.”
What we’re hearing today is no worse than what we heard in, say, 2003 at Berlin, when Germans (and, to our horror, a number of American expatriates we encountered) were saying the most horrible things about President George W. Bush. We heard the same kind of condescension about President Reagan, at least until the Reagan Revolution got American might and optimism waxing unambiguously.
Today Frau Merkel and Monsieur Macron strike us, at least from afar, as particularly obnoxious. Mr. Erlanger notes that “European leaders normally repress or soften their criticism of United States presidents.” He notes how they did so while nursing their unhappiness over President Obama’s failure to confront Russia in the Ukraine. “Their criticism was quiet,” he points out.
Now, not so much. Mr. Erlanger quotes Mr. Macron, 39, as suggesting “our world has never been so divided.” The reporter notes that while criticizing “those like Mr. Trump” who do not support multilateral institutions, the French president waved around his iPhone “as a symbol of global trade.” The iPhone is a nice touch; Europe is trying, ex post facto, to extract from Apple $14 billion in taxes Ireland had contracted not to levy.
Then again, too, Apple is the least of it. The Germans had barely started putting Hamburg back together from the G20 when the Agence France Press reported that Mr. Macron’s economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, just back from the G20, drew applause from a symposium at Aix-en-Provence suggesting it was time for Europe to start “making Google, Amazon and Facebook pay the taxes they owe European taxpayers.”
Which we mention just in case anyone is under the impression there is something high-minded — or free-traderly— about European self-righteousness. Whatever else one can say about how upset Frau Merkel is over America’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, feature this: On the weather and climate, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and the whole crowd chose to stand with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jingping against America. In our view, they deserve one another.
No wonder President Trump refused to wear a Group of 20 lapel pin in place of the American flag. Good for him. We’re a free trade and an Atlanticist newspaper, but we’re more worried about the EU than about Donald Trump. He was plenty forthcoming at Hamburg, particularly his promise to deliver quickly a trade agreement with Britain as it seeks to extricate itself from the European Union.
That, in our view, was the real elephant in the room at the G20. The Europeans are smarting from the British decision — made by the people and ratified by the Mother of Parliaments — to secede. Europeans seem determined to take out their humiliation on America. The best strategy for Mr. Trump and our own Congress would be to get on with our tax reform so that American profits trapped overseas can be brought home to ignite the jobs boom for which Americans voted in 2016.