Expectations on this side of the Atlantic with the arrival of Joe Biden to the White House were so high that they almost necessarily had to be frustrated. After the confrontation experienced during the presidency of Donald Trump, Europeans hoped to redirect the relationship with their natural partners with the arrival of the Democrat, but many signs indicate that nothing will ever be the way it was, if it ever was.
The former European Commissioner for Commerce, Cecilia Malmström, assured this Wednesday in a virtual talk at the European Policy Center that “the signals of the Biden Administration are very similar to those of the previous Administration, although the rhetoric is softer” and remarked a a good handful of reasons: the “America first” promoted by Biden, the new legislation that prioritizes its companies in public administration competitions, the lack of progress to reform the World Trade Organization. There is more. As a gesture of goodwill, Biden suspended the application of the steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by Trump on European products, but if there is no agreement in the coming weeks, the tariffs will go back into effect on December 1.
France would add to that list the agreement signed by the United States with the United Kingdom and Australia that has left it without a juicy submarine manufacturing contract with Canberra. So much so that French President Emmanuel Macron threatened to boycott the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) that is being held this Wednesday and Thursday in Pittsburgh. Only a call from Biden managed to soften the French position and redirect the appointment.
The EU and the US open this new forum after the failure of the TTIP, the trade agreement that Brussels and Washington tried to close during the term of Barack Obama. The truth is that the institutionalization of a forum for dialogue between the two powers is essential at a time when a new geopolitical order is taking shape. There are many matters that require cooperation in matters that will define the future: investment screening, the establishment of common standards in artificial intelligence, semiconductor production, export control … and without direct negotiation channels it is difficult to redirect the relationship and regain mutual trust.
In the background, of course, China, although it is not named. The European authorities want to prevent the TTC from becoming a forum for verbal attack on Beijing, but they share the US concern about the Chinese vision on trade and technology. “China is an important but complicated partner,” recalled Malmström. But the interests of both sides do not always coincide and if the pandemic – and the abrupt landing of the idyll with Biden – has taught something, it is that European strategic autonomy cannot be postponed. The European semiconductor law announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen may be a first step.
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