Politics

Biden vs. Trump: Europe watches the U.S. election closely — and hopes

Key Points
  • Biden will be "more conventional," a European government official told CNBC under the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
  • Prior to the Trump administration, the EU would often coordinate on action of a global scale with the United States, namely during the Clinton, Bush and Obama presidencies.
  • However, a blue wave would also not necessarily lead to a 180-degree turn in transatlantic relations.
US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden are seen during the first presidential debate on a YouTube video displayed on a screen of a smartphone. United States presidential election scheduled on November 3, 2020.
Pavlo Conchar | LightRocket | Getty Images

LONDON – The relationship between the U.S. and Europe has been bitter over the last four years, but EU officials are hoping tensions will ease after the upcoming presidential election

Transatlantic ties have fractured since President Donald Trump arrived at the White House in 2017, with clashes over trade, defense and technology. In addition, unilateral decisions by the American president have upset many in the European Union, in particular his call to close borders to European travelers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, there's a hope among some officials in the EU that things may improve at least slightly if Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the Nov. 3 election. 

Biden will be "more conventional," a European government official told CNBC under the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The same person added that it would no longer be about "what the president tweets in the morning."

Trump has frequently opted out of traditional diplomacy standards by making announcements and commenting on different subjects via Twitter.

If Biden is re-elected, he cannot change from one day to the other the American stance, but he will be more easy going
Jean-Claude Juncker
former European Commission president

Speaking at an event in early September, Jean-Claude Juncker, who served as president of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm,  during the first three years of the Trump presidency said: "Donald Trump is not an idiot … he knows exactly what he wants."

"If Trump is re-elected, I don't think he will pursue this American tradition to be more pro-European in the second mandate. I don't think that if he is re-elected things will improve in the way we wanted them to improve," Juncker said.

Prior to the Trump administration, the EU would often coordinate on action of a global scale with the United States, namely during the Clinton, Bush and Obama presidencies.

"For Europe the most important thing is whether we return to a more calm foreign policy and trade policy and that means probably for Europe a Biden presidency would be better," Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg, told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" last week.

However, a blue wave — referring to the possibility that the Democratic Party wins the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives — would also not necessarily lead to a 180-degree turn in transatlantic relations.

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"If Biden is re-elected, he cannot change from one day to the other the American stance, but he will be more easy going," Jean-Claude Juncker said during the same event.

In a note released last week, Goldman Sachs said that if elected Biden would likely "reverse the tariffs the Trump Administration imposed on imports from China and abstain from significant tariffs on Europe."

The latter would be a particularly welcome development for German automakers, who have been threatened with higher tariffs since Trump arrived at the White House.

But in other areas, the expectation is that Biden would be as tough as Trump has been. "An OECD deal would be as difficult as it is now," the European government official told CNBC about digital taxation.

The intention of many EU governments to raise taxes on Big Tech has not been well received by the White House, which argues this measure would unfairly target American companies. The dispute is far from being resolved with the OECD, the organization that is moderating talks among different governments, recently postponing the deadline for a deal until mid-2021.

"The U.S. will remain an ally of the EU, but it is clear that because of the current evolution at global level, the European Union will continue to be more assertive in defending its own interests," an EU official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the talks, told CNBC.