The conception of two-level relations was developed by Robert Putnam. This political model includes the international conflicts resolution between liberal democracies and, obviously, is still useful in understanding the European Union’s relations with the United States.
The historic relations of the Unites States and the European Union are based on the common idea of the rule of law, human rights and market economy. Putnam insists upon the theory of the close connection of the domestic politics with the international relations (1988, 427).
It means that all international negotiations between the governments of the liberal democracies are considered as the talks on both the national and international levels. Each government, first of all, uses the politics according to its domestic interests. Therefore, all the negotiations can be considered from the position of its benefits for the particular country.
Smith suggests analyzing the current tension of the US-EU relations from the position of world order: the role of leadership, the distribution of power, the development of institutions and the articulation of ideas and values about the nature of the world arena (2004, p.96). The United States and the European Union are two largest trading structures which occupy the similar position in the system of global economy.
The past few decades, these relations became more balanced. Since the foundation of the European Common Market in 1957, the United States got a new partner and started the bilateral and multilateral relations (Smith, 2004).
The European Union doesn’t have an integrated foreign policy. This makes the bilateral US-EU relations more complicated. For instance, the European foreign policy was divided during the Iraq War due to the impossibility of the common agreed position. Nevertheless, the relationship between the US and the EU is the brightest example of the bilateral cooperation.
Both structures successfully negotiate on domestic and international levels getting the expecting results (DePorte, 1979). The US and the EU economics and military powers are the biggest in the world. They completely dominate global trade system and dictate the approaches of international economics’ development.
After the end of the Cold War, the world was divided between the US and the EU economic structures. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tension situation at the Middle East played a very important role for the Western Alliance restructure and integration.
In spite of the similar liberal democratic values, both structures disagree with each other on the different issues such as political, economical, ecological and social aspects. In order to direct an economic cooperation, in 2007, the US Deputy national Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs and the Commissioner for Trade of the EU established the Transatlantic Economic Council.
McGuire and Smith see the base of this relations as the cooperation of “warrior states” (US) and “trading states” (EU) according to their fundamental approaches to worlds order (2008). Thereby, both structures can be considered as the system of states. They successfully cooperate within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Thereby, they don’t sacrifice their external sovereignty (McGuire and Smith, 2008).
The trade policy is the main aspect of the US-EU relations. However, it is not easy to come to agreement due to the numerous barriers and protectionism on both sides. For a long time, WTO has been trying to pass a new trade agreement. In 2001, in Doha, the negotiations were failed.
Since that, the talks were collapsed until in 2006 German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed to ratificate the new agreement of the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (“Merkel for EU Agreement with US”).
Nowadays, the world is faced with the problem of international terrorism. The United States and the European Union have to cooperate in order of the global safety. The European countries actively support the US programs of the terroristic suspects’ treatment. The United States and the European Union signed the United Nations’ Geneva Convention Against Torture that includes the human treatment of the prisoners.
However, this issue is a cause of sharp debates between the countries. The European Union’s delegation says about the contradiction of this Convention with European norms on human rights (Smith, 2004). The other point is the European discomfort on a boarder due to the US approach to terrorists’ countering.
In this situation, the European Union position is based on the domestic benefits that, obviously, can be affected by the approaches suggested by the Convention.
The conception of two-level games is still useful tool within the background of the US-EU relations. Within the domestic negotiations, a leader absorbs the opinions of other members and cooperates with them building the coalition. The international level needs other methods of negotiations: the leader should implement the concerns according to its benefits for the country.
The current debates about the leadership, power, institutions and values between the US and the EU demonstrate an actuality of Putnam’s theory. Obviously, the modern cooperation of the United States and the European Union can be considered from the position of the conception of two-level relations.
DePorte, A. W., 1979. Europe between the Superpowers the Enduring Balance. US: Yale University Press.
McGuire, S., and Smith, M., 2008. The European Union and the United States. UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Merkel for EU Agreement with US, 2006. Spiegel. [online] Available at: <https://www.spiegel.de/international/trans-atlantic-free-trade-merkel-for-eu-agreement-with-us-a-440335.html> [Accessed 7 December 2011].
Putnam, R. D., 1988. Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games. International Organization, Vol. 42, No. 3., pp. 427-460.
Smith, M., 2004. Between Two Worlds? The European Union, the United States and World Order. International Politics, 41, pp. 95–117.