Joe Biden, EU chief signal thaw on trade tensions

Joe Biden, EU chief signal thaw on trade tensions

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden and top EU official Ursula von der Leyen announced progress in defusing a transatlantic trade dispute and renewed their commitment to back Ukraine against Russia.

In a limited, but concrete step, the two leaders announced after Oval Office talks that negotiations will begin on giving EU producers of critical minerals access to the US market under Biden’s signature program to encourage climate friendly industries.

They also pledged to coordinate generally as both US and EU economies pivot to the booming electric vehicle and other green sectors.

Von der Leyen, president of the European Union Commission, has worked closely with Biden in forging response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine over the last year.

Biden told von der Leyen that the alliance to support Ukraine marked “a new era.”

And in their joint statement later, they said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “thought that he would divide us, and yet we are more united than ever. We stand together in our unwavering support for Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

However, tensions are swirling in Europe over the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a government spending spree championing US manufacturing in climate-friendly technologies.

Amid EU alarm that the subsidies’ “made in America” requirement will hurt European-based energy and auto sectors, the EU is working on its own sets of incentives, such as the Green Deal Industrial Plan, to promote the emerging sector.

The joint statement indicated that Biden and von der Leyen made progress with a deal to start talks on an exemption for European producers seeking to export critical minerals for electric vehicle batteries.

“Today we agreed that we will work on critical raw materials that have been sourced or processed in the European Union and to give them access to the American market as if they were sourced in the American market. We will work on an agreement,” von der Leyen told reporters after meeting Biden.

The White House said that “challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China” featured prominently in the talks.

Washington has been urging European capitals to take a firmer stand against Beijing — not just diplomatically, but also economically. However, the EU is keen to avoid rupture with China, leaving the transatlantic allies divided on how to move forward.

Elvire Fabry, an analyst at the Institut Jacques Delors, a Paris-based think tank, told AFP that the White House session was a chance for von der Leyen to show EU desire to work with Washington, “but not in the position of follower, especially when it comes to China.”

“The European position is based on wanting to maintain its own line concerning Beijing.”

In their joint statement, Biden and von der Leyen made only fleeting mention of China

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