Amid growing US-France tensions over a warship deal with Australia, top US administrators including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a number of other senior Biden officials kicked off two-day trade and technology talks with European Union counterparts in Pittsburgh.
During the crucial talks, the two sides are hoping to make progress on several disputes, including US tariffs on EU steel and aluminium imports, and a unified stance against predatory Chinese commercial policies.
The present talks are clouded by recent EU anger over being excluded from a new US-British-Australian security initiative for the Indo-Pacific that aims to counter China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.
Blinken is being joined in Pittsburgh by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Trade Representative Katherine Tai. The European Commission delegation is headed by its two executive vice-presidents, Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis, and the EU’s ambassador to Washington, Stavros Lambrinidis.
According to administration officials, the talks in Pittsburgh — the inaugural meeting of the US -EU Trade and Technology Council — will focus on semiconductors, supply chains, vaccines, and climate change, along with studies on artificial intelligence and high-tech telecommunications, notably advanced 6G networks.
They say the talks will mark the start of a new process that will likely result in a statement of joint principles and potential announcements on semiconductors and AI. Working groups are expected to be created to regularize discussions on technology standards, climate and green tech, securing supply chains, digital security and competitiveness, export controls, investment, and global trade challenges.
The White House, in part, views the gathering as an opportunity to renew its push for improved coordination against what the administration sees as coercive and unfair trade practices by Beijing.
Launched in June during Biden’s visit to Europe, the TTC attracted little attention initially, but it became a focal point for growing tensions between the US and France, as the government in Paris sought to delay this meeting.
Those tensions exploded earlier this month when the US, Britain, and Australia announced their new Indo-Pacific security initiative, known as AUKUS, that pointedly excluded France and the EU, and almost immediately resulted in the cancellation of a multi-billion dollar Australian-French submarine contract. France reacted with rage to the announcement, which is called a “stab in the back” by ostensible allies, and recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia.