On Wednesday, top EU and US officials attended the first meeting of the US-EU Trade and Technology Council, an effort designed to ensure that the West’s influence in technology and trade are maintained. The Representatives in attendance laid out plans to coordinate more closely on their response to emerging technologies and pressing trade threats.
High-level commitments were made during the Council meeting to co-tackling burgeoning economic and security challenges. Challenges that include the regulation of artificial intelligence, easing of the semiconductor shortage and combatting human rights abuses.
Speaking on what the EU and the US can accomplish when working together, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, stated, “we have a unique ability to help shape the norms, standards and rules that govern the way technology is used, technology that affects the lives of virtually all of our citizens”.
The EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager echoed the sentiments of Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, noting “we can achieve a lot also in the next six months because now there is a sense of momentum […] in the areas we’re dealing with here – trade and technology – these are fast-moving issues and fast-moving markets, so speed is of the essence”.
Indeed, only time will tell if the US and EU can convert this momentum into tangible progress towards adopting complementary digital rules or coordinating their geopolitical actions against systematic competitors such as China – although there was acknowledgement of an understanding on both sides that their individual relationships with China are complex.
Regardless of the eventual time frame of cooperation, the two sides pledged to fight a list of unfair trading practices, including: forced technology transfer, state-sponsored theft of intellectual property, market-distorting industrial subsidies, and anti-competitive actions of state-owned enterprises.
Officials from the both sides of the Atlantic viewed this Council meeting as an opportunity to reset their recent rocky relationship and tackle issues that are of importance to both the EU and US, and on which the EU and US can and should cooperate.
It is too early to say that the Council meeting has set the Transatlantic partnership back on track and it is likely that some frays in the relationship still remain, particularly between the US and certain EU member states such as France, following the recent submarine debacle with Australia. In fact, France had initially lobbied to postpone the Council meeting in the aftermath of the announcement of the multibillion-dollar submarine contract between the US, Australia and UK earlier in September. Nonetheless, this meeting has got the sides back on track and in the very least put renewed impetus on the important challenges ahead, while highlighting the necessity of cooperation between the US and EU in facing these challenges. The next Council meeting will likely take place in Spring 2022, giving officials on both sides time to put their domestic affairs in order and smooth over diplomatic tensions before the next round of discussions.
Compliments of Vulcan Consulting – a member of the EACCNY.