| 19 May 2024, Sunday |

U.S.-EU tech trade summit clouded by French reservations

Despite the wishes of other EU countries, France is attempting to weaken a planned joint EU-US declaration on technology cooperation, EU diplomats said on Tuesday.

At the inaugural meeting of the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) on Wednesday, senior US and European Union officials plan to discuss semiconductor shortages, artificial intelligence, and tech competition challenges.

However, EU sources said France sought to remove a reference to a second summit in April 2022, when France will hold its presidential election.

According to officials, it also wanted to remove language from a proposed semiconductor supply chain collaboration that said that the EU and the US were mutually dependent.

One EU ambassador stated, “There is a consensus minus one.”

Another EU ambassador stated that the French concept of supply security extended beyond short-term semiconductor issues to include vaccinations, and that the United States did not want to be reliant on the European Union.

According to the diplomat, France has emphasized the need for a more cautious approach, as well as the necessity to rebuild transatlantic trust.

The European Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, said it was resolving outstanding minor issues and was confident of finalizing the statement in good time for the Pittsburgh meeting.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will host European Commission Vice Presidents Valdis Dombrovskis and Margrethe Vestager in a forum also designed to set tech standards.

It was not clear how the EU members would reach agreement in time for Wednesday’s TTC meeting, although the European Commission was talking with France and other EU countries, diplomats said. The six-hour time difference between Brussels and Washington was adding a further layer of complication.

The TTC meeting had been in doubt last week because of French anger over Australia’s scrapping of a $40 billion submarine contract and decision to opt instead for a deal with the United States and Britain to buy nuclear-powered vessels.

Diplomats said French reservations were less related to this dispute and more to France’s stronger belief in EU autonomy.

  • Reuters