U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
Francois Lenoir | Reuters
WASHINGTON — Top-level officials from the U.S. and European Union will meet Wednesday to discuss several major economic and technological challenges facing the trans-Atlantic alliance as China’s ambitions increasingly shape global markets.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai will represent the Biden administration at the inaugural U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, or TTC, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Biden’s team will meet with European Commission Executive Vice Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovski.
The group aims to address trade disputes, streamline regulatory procedures and develop “rules of the road” for emerging technologies on both sides of the Atlantic.
The urgency in the U.S. and European Union to cooperate on trade and tech signals Western ambitions to compete more effectively with China. Washington and Brussels have accused Beijing of unfair trade practices that range from intellectual property theft to dumping.
“Europe and the United States have a shared interest in ensuring that others abide by those rules of the road,” a senior Biden administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share details ahead of the meeting, said without naming a particular government.
The official said the Trade and Technology Council will focus on cooperation in the following areas:
- Technology standards
- Supply chain security
- Climate and green energy
- IT security and competitiveness
- Data governance
- Export controls
- Investment screening
- Global trade challenges
Wednesday’s meeting comes as the Biden administration pivots from costly interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia — like America’s 20-year military mission in Afghanistan — to emerging threats posed by Russia and China.
Last week, Biden met in person with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan at the White House to discuss shared concerns about China’s growing military and economic influence. The leaders also discussed progress on Covid-19 vaccines, technological cooperation and a free and open Indo-Pacific as China grows more assertive in the region.
The meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad — as the grouping of the four major democracies is called — came just a week after Biden announced a new security pact with the U.K and Australia, a move that angered Beijing.
Biden, alongside Prime Ministers Scott Morrison of Australia and Boris Johnson of the U.K., announced a new trilateral security partnership aimed at strengthening and stabilizing the South Pacific-Indian Ocean region.
As part of the deal, the U.S. and U.K. will assist Canberra in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines, which will allow Australia’s navy to help counter Chinese nuclear-powered vessels in the region.
“This will give Australia the capability for their submarines to basically deploy for longer periods, they’re quieter, they’re much more capable, they will allow us to sustain and to improve deterrence across the Indo-Pacific,” a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said earlier this month.
“What we’re seeing in the Indo-Pacific region is a set of circumstances where capabilities are more advanced,” the official added. “This allows Australia to play at a much higher level, and to augment American capabilities.”
Beijing blasted the security pact and arms deal, calling it “extremely irresponsible.”
“The export of highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology to Australia by the U.S. and the U.K. proves once again that they are using nuclear exports as a tool for geopolitical game and adopting double standards. This is extremely irresponsible,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said when asked about the trilateral security pact earlier in the month.
“Seeking closed and exclusive clique runs counter to the trend of the times and the aspirations of countries in the region, which finds no support and leads nowhere,” he added.
Biden, who spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month, has previously said his approach to China would be different from his predecessor’s in that he would work more closely with allies in order to push back against Beijing.
However, the president’s most-recent move angered America’s oldest ally. The security alliance, referred to as AUKUS, triggered a diplomatic row with Paris since the deal effectively scrapped a longstanding arms deal between Australia and France.
Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron last week in an effort to ease tensions, and the two leaders agreed to meet in Europe at the end of October. During the call, Macron also agreed to send France’s ambassador to the United States, Philippe Etienne, back to Washington.