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The battle for leadership: US versus Europe

The swing of the political pendulum in the US has had an equal and opposite reaction in Europe. In the 1990s, under the post-cold war order of transatlantic relations, Bill Clinton's centre-left US administration promoted its own brand of caring capitalism. Inflation was banished, the world economy grew strongly and financial markets soared.

Just like the US, Europe's four biggest nations all had centre-left governments. And they all tried to emulate the US model, embracing structural reform, liberalizing markets and encouraging the equity culture.

How quickly times change. The dot com bubble has burst and the US is flirting with recession. At home, the Bush administration is fixated on power-generation bills and tax cuts. Abroad, a grittier foreign policy agenda means that with the exception of a few key strategic interests (Argentina, Turkey) the US is hands off. Kyoto's clean-up commitments are out, expansion of Nafta and a tougher attitude towards China are in.

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