November 15th, 2012

Nov. 15 – “Analysis from Abroad: How International Journalists View the U.S. Election”

Nov. 15 - Analysis from Abroad: Journalist PanelFor more photos from the program, visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usafmc/sets/72157632016407239/

The Congressional Study Groups convened an event on November 15, 2012, at the U.S. Capitol titled “Analysis from Abroad: How International Journalists View the U.S. Election.” The panel discussion featured four international journalists responding to the recent U.S. elections and what citizens in their home countries think about the outcome. Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), Co-Chair of The Congressional Study Group on Germany opened with thanks to The Congressional Study Groups for organizing the event, and to the panelists for their participation. He also provided a few informal remarks about what he sees as the upcoming issues areas for the 113th Congress.

The Hon. Jim Kolbe, a member of the Board of Directors for the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, which administers The Congressional Study Groups, served as moderator for the session. Kolbe opened with a direct question to each journalist. Kolbe asked Christian Wernicke, U.S. Correspondent at the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), to respond on the overall mood of Germans following the election, as well as the “pivot to Asia” by the Obama Administration, and whether or not he felt that the U.S. will be paying less attention to Europe in upcoming years. Wernicke responded stating that Germans were pleased with Obama’s reelection as they already have a sense of familiarity with President Obama’s agenda. Wernicke felt that Europeans seemed surprised that President Obama has been focusing primarily on Asia, and there are concerns that Atlantic trade will be less of a priority than Pacific trade. Wernicke commented that “if you want to be relevant you have to make yourself relevant,” meaning that Europeans should reach out to the administration in order to strengthen diplomacy. Discussions for a transatlantic free trade agreement, however, are a starting point for further negotiations and will be positive for the transatlantic relationship.

Next, Kolbe asked Hideomi Kinoshita of Kyodo News (Japan) about the “pivot to Asia” and the land dispute between Japan and China, as President Obama has not yet taken a firm stance on this situation. Kinoshita responded that the Japanese are positive about the outcome of the election and hope that President Obama will side with Japan on the land dispute. Kinoshita’s advice to the Japanese on the dispute is to “take a deep breath” and relax because Japan needs to continue diplomacy with China as economic relations between the two are vital for development.

Kolbe asked Tolga Tanis, Washington Correspondent for Hürriyet Daily News (Turkey), about the United States’ commitments to Turkey with regards to Syria. Tanis feels that Turkey and the U.S. need to support each other; Turkey needs the support of the U.S. on Syria and the U.S. needs the support of Turkey on Iran. The Turkish government expects that President Obama’s positions will change in regards to Syria because the Obama administration has not been happy with the Turkish government’s response to Syria thus far. The Obama Administration also imposed tougher sanctions on Iran recently which could indicate a change in position towards Syria. Tanis feels that the U.S. would like Turkey to play a facilitator role when it comes to diplomacy in the region.

Finally, Kolbe asked Edward McBride, Washington Bureau Chief of The Economist (UK), about the upcoming fiscal cliff and what the United States can learn from Europe considering their similar economic problems and how to avoid “heading down the road of Greece.” McBride first commented on the election itself. He stated that Europeans were interested in the “spectacle of the election” but are often confused about the outcome because the European political spectrum does not match to the system in the U.S. In regards to the economic situation, Europeans tend to find it secondary to their own problems; however, they are aware that problems in the U.S. could affect and potentially worsen the situation in Europe. Still, they have confidence that the U.S. will be able to work Nov. 15 - Analysis from Abroad: Journalist Panelout their problems.

Kolbe posed several follow up questions to each of the panelists. Wernicke was asked to comment further on the economic situation in the U.S. and Europe, specifically a comment made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the U.S. does not understand Europe’s problems. Wernicke said that the feeling is that since the U.S. has its own economic troubles, it has lost legitimacy as “big brother” and no longer takes kindly to lecturing by the U.S.

Kolbe then asked Tanis if Turkey still had interest in joining the European Union considering the economic troubles. Tanis responded saying that these troubles constitute one strong argument against joining. Turkey is a strong regional leader, and interest in joining the EU is not nearly as strong as it has been in the past. Kinoshita was then asked about Japan’s high debt problems and about the future of politics in Japan, as there have been eleven prime ministers since 2000. Kinoshita responded saying that Prime Minister Noda had just called for new parliamentary elections to take place on December 16th, and the national debt would be a key point of discussion.

Kolbe then opened the panel to questions from the other participants.

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