TIGRE: The Missing Link?

Operationalizing the Democratic Community Narrative

| May 2020
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The “democratic community” narrative sounds appealing on paper: decoupling from autocracies and reorienting both security and economic ties to allies who share similar values. Yet while these themes often find their way into speeches and addresses, they have proven difficult to translate into practical policies. Does the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as renewed concerns about overdependence on China, create an opening in the United States and other Western states for moving forward on decoupling and reorienting? Ambassador Kurt Volker has proposed an agenda that would operationalize the democratic community concept, in particular his proposal for TIGRE: The Transatlantic Investment, Growth and Resilience (TIGRE) Pact. As he describes it, TIGRE would be

designed to spur growth, eliminate all tariffs and establish the single largest free market in the world, based on democracies that respect the rule of law. This should include Canada and Mexico from the outset, and later be open to all democracies that adopt the same rules.

A key part of this process would be

identifying core infrastructure—energy, cyber, health systems, etc.—that needs to be secure within such a democratic community, without dependence on authoritarian regimes. Given the vulnerabilities demonstrated in supply chains, businesses need to give higher priority to security, rather than simply being driven only by lowest cost. This should touch everything from 5G technology to protective health equipment.

This is an agenda which touches both on national security concerns but which could also appeal to a variety of domestic political constituencies. It is also a way of reconnecting the defense and foreign policy agenda with the “main street” concerns about jobs and sustainable prosperity, and also connects to concerns about supporting democracy and human rights.

Will we see proposals like TIGRE gain traction in the 2020 campaign? Will it also have legs in other European countries? Could this serve to underpin a new narrative for American foreign policy?

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  1. Nikolas Gvosdev says:

    The TIGRE idea is spelled out in greater detail in this piece which just appeared in the National Interest: https://nationalinterest.org/feature/building-post-pandemic-world-156791

    A key part of such a pact is the identification of strategic infrastructure and industries that must be sourced within this democratic, free-market zone. This would effectively negate China’s efforts to make inroads in Europe through its Belt-and-Road initiative, or dominate 5G networks. States emerging from coronavirus will be tempted to build national barriers—but we would be far better served by lowering barriers among like-minded allies, and raising even higher barriers against authoritarian adversaries that do not share our values and interests.

    Past efforts to create a transatlantic trade and investment pact were hobbled by specialized interests in many countries, and ultimately too timid in seeking to tear down barriers and build a genuine, robust transatlantic economy. In the wake of the coronavirus, it may be possible to launch a revolutionary new Transatlantic Investment, Growth, and Resilience Pact.