President Joe Biden and senior EU official Ursula von der Leyen meet on Friday to defuse a transatlantic trade dispute over subsidies for the green economy, as well as cooperation to confront Russia.
The European Union Commission President has worked closely with Biden to forge an unprecedented response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the past year.
European capitals joined Washington in a united front on sanctions against Moscow and the supply of arms and aid to Ukraine. EU countries also surprised many by moving quickly to break the bloc’s reliance on energy supplies from Russia.
Yet tensions are swirling in Europe over the Biden administration’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a wave of government spending that champions American manufacturing on climate-friendly technologies.
Amid alarm from the EU that subsidies will exclude European manufacturers and hurt the energy and auto sectors, the European bloc is working on its own sets of subsidies, such as the Industrial Green Deal Scheme, to promote the emerging sector.
A senior US official told reporters that Biden and von der Leyen want to make sure the two programs complement each other.
The leaders will express “an articulation of a shared focus and a set of shared goals,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“That’s not going to happen if our incentives and their incentives are misaligned and competing with each other in a zero-sum fashion.”
Proof that Brussels and Washington can work together should be an announcement at Friday’s talks on negotiations on the specific area of critical minerals used in electric vehicle batteries.
“We look forward to starting negotiations on a critical minerals deal,” the official said.
Another difficult area is how to respond to China’s increasingly powerful foreign and trade policies.
The White House said the “challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China” will figure prominently in the Oval Office talks.
Washington has been urging European capitals to take a tougher stance against Beijing, not just diplomatically, but also economically. However, the EU wants to avoid a break with China, leaving the transatlantic allies somewhat 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 will give von der Leyen a chance to show the EU’s desire to work with Washington, ” but not in the follower position, especially when it comes to China.”
“The European position is based on wanting to hold its own line with respect to Beijing.”
However, the US official highlighted the cohesion between Brussels and Washington on the overall vision of China’s challenge.
“There is an unprecedented alignment between the United States and Europe,” he said, predicting that the two leaders will express “a focus on the need to strengthen our economic security, to respond to concrete threats to economic security” from China.