US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced progress in defusing a transatlantic trade dispute after their meeting Friday at the White House, where they also renewed their commitment to support Ukraine against Russia.
In a limited but tangible step, the two leaders announced after their discussions in the Oval Office that negotiations would begin on granting biomineral producers in the European Union the right to enter the US market under Biden’s plan to encourage environmentally friendly industries.
They also pledged to coordinate in general while the economies of the United States and the European Union focus on the electric car industry and other green sectors.
Von der Leyen worked closely with Biden on crafting an unprecedented response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine over the past year.
And Biden considered, during his meeting with von der Leyen in the Oval Office, that the alliance to support Ukraine represented a “new era.”
In their later joint statement, they said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “thought it would divide us, but we are more united than ever. We stand together in our unwavering support for Ukraine no matter what it takes.”
A Ukrainian soldier next to a Ukrainian armored vehicle destroyed by Russian attacks in the Kiev region
Tension on the background of electric cars
However, tensions are mounting in Europe over the Biden administration’s “Inflation Reduction Act,” a massive aid program that the US president intends to use to encourage the transition to clean energy by subsidizing US-made products.
With the European Union concerned that the “Made in America” product subsidy plan will harm Europe’s energy and auto sectors, the European Union is working on its own stimulus package, such as the “Industrial Green Deal Scheme” to boost the emerging sector.
The joint statement indicated that Biden and von der Leyen had made progress on an agreement to begin talks on exempting European producers seeking to export minerals critical for electric vehicle batteries.
Von der Leyen told reporters after meeting Biden: “We agreed today that we will work on the important raw materials that we obtain or process in the European Union and secure access to the American market for them (…) and we will work on an agreement on that.”
“Both sides will take steps to avoid any disruptions to transatlantic trade and investment flows that could arise from each other’s incentives,” their joint statement said. “We are working on a background of zero competition so that our incentives promote clean energy deployment and job creation.”
Differences about China
Another thorny issue is how to respond to China’s assertive trade policies.
The White House said “the challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China” would figure prominently in the talks.
And at a time when the United States publicly accuses Beijing of intending to provide military assistance to Russia, Washington wants to persuade the European Union to adopt a tougher stance towards China, despite the very strong trade ties established by the Asian giant, especially with Germany.
A US official commented, “We saw that there was a significant convergence of views … regarding our position on China.”
For her part, Elvire Fabry of the Paris-based Jacques Delors Institute said, “In bilateral relations between the European Union and the United States, China has always become the third.”
She pointed out that “the Commission clearly indicated that the Europeans have a specific vision of the way in which they want to maintain relations with China.”