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Photo: ETIENNE ANSOTTE/AFP/Getty Images;modified by FP Relations between the United States and members of the European Union, by all accounts, have improved in recent years. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in his recent speech to Congress, professed his outright “love” for America. Following Sarko’s speech, President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had what was by ...

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Photo: ETIENNE ANSOTTE/AFP/Getty Images;
modified by FP

Relations between the United States and members of the European Union, by all accounts, have improved in recent years. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in his recent speech to Congress, professed his outright “love” for America. Following Sarko’s speech, President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had what was by most accounts an amicable meeting in Crawford. And relations with British PM Gordon Brown, while not as warm as those Bush had with former PM Tony Blair, are progressing.

Most attribute the improvement in U.S./Euro relations to Bush’s departure from his “with us or against us” attitude surrounding the Iraq war. It also doesn’t hurt that Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac—no fans of the U.S. president—are no longer around.

But other, deeper factors might be at work. A new survey from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, released Wednesday morning, finds that majorities in America and Europe share many of the same economic worries—immigration, currency fluctuations, fear of the Chinese economy, and job losses due to globalization—and would “support a new initiative aimed at deepening transatlantic trade and investment.” Interestingly, (non-British) Europeans feel even more threatened by China’s rise than Americans do.

While we should always be wary of polls that support an organization’s raison d’être, I do wonder what such an “initiative” would look like. Most likely, it would mean an expansion of existing trade and investment relationships—probably nothing as grandiose as Mitt Romney’s proposal for a “Reagan Zone of Economic Freedom.” But doesn’t this also, on some level, sound like those polled favor a transatlantic partnership similar to the European Union? A U.S./EU trading block, perhaps?

I know this sounds far-fetched, and admittedly it is. But the European Union evolved into a trading block for many of same reasons cited by those polled: immigration, currency, competitiveness, and weak individual economies. Decades from now, when China has the most powerful economy in the world, will a similar union between the United States and Europe be the only way to stay competitive? Like I said, far-fetched. But 60 years ago, so was the European Union.

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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