US President Joe Biden and the EU will agree a long term truce in the long-running Airbus-Boeing dispute Tuesday, as they try push past their own disputes and turn their focus onto a rising China.
Negotiated in marathon talks by EU and US officials, the truce will be formalised in Biden’s summit with European leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, who are hosting him in Brussels.
“We have found a good agreement that gives us the time to find a long-term solution,” a European source close to the matter told AFP on condition of anonymity.
In March, Biden and Von der Leyen — the president of the European Commission — had suspended retaliatory tariffs in the dispute over subsidies for the rival planemakers. The punitive measures targeted European cheese and wine and American what and tobacco, among other products.
Sources said the truce would be set for five years, leaving enough time to resolve the fight — while still factoring in China’s growing capability in the aviation industry.
Biden’s two-hour stopover at EU headquarters, tucked between a NATO summit and his sitdown with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, is supposed to mark a clear break with the tumultuous four years with Donald Trump as president.
After the crisis in the transatlantic relationship under Trump, who considered the EU a bitter economic rival, Biden wants to “defuse the disputes … in order to focus on his priority, China”, said Eric Maurice of the Schuman Foundation.
– ‘Sweating’ for deal –
The Europeans are trying to clear the slate of trade disputes in order to consolidate a more friendly phase and jointly tackle other issues, which also include curbing big tech and handling Russia.
A European official said both sides had been “sweating” to find common ground on the trade issues ahead of the meeting and give a clear sign that Trump-era battles will soon be behind them.
But another, as yet unsolved, row is a tariff of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium that Trump slapped on Europe and other close partners in 2018.
Brussels hit back with counter-tariffs on 2.8 billion euros worth of iconic US products, including bourbon whiskey, jeans, and Harley-Davidson motorbikes.
US diplomats have been reluctant to write an actual end date for solving that battle, with the steel tariffs politically popular in key constituencies for Biden in the US.
Trump and Brussels also quarrelled over taxing big tech platforms after France led a group of several EU states by hitting Google, Facebook and others with a special levy.
Washington fought back with a wave of counter-tariffs that Biden has frozen, as both sides await a worldwide deal on how to better tax big tech companies.
A final statement from the meeting in Brussels will allude to all these battles, with diplomats behind the scenes trying to find the right language to display good intentions, but without giving too much ground.
Washington will also express concern over the controversial agreement reached in December between the EU and China that would open the Chinese market to European companies.
The implementation of the deal, however, is currently frozen following EU sanctions over Uyghur rights violations and counter-sanctions from Beijing.
– ‘Maximum pressure’ –
Biden and the EU chiefs will also agree to cooperate in something called a Trade and Technology Council that will attempt to write joint rules for artificial intelligence and other innovations over the coming years.
The senior US administration official described the council as an important initiative that would serve as a platform for cooperation for years ahead.
“The notion here is that the United States and Europe laid the foundation for the world economy after World War II and now have to work together to write the rules of the road for the next generation,” a senior US administration official said.
Though unnamed, China is the important backdrop for the council, which will set rules for “technologies based on our shared democratic values, including respect for human rights”, the draft communique says.
Brussels and Washington will also set up a joint forum about Russia in order to exchange ideas on facing increasingly disruptive moves by Moscow, with a special focus on fighting disinformation and other flagrant misuses of technology.
The model is based on an existing forum on China that meets to find ways to more closely align the EU-US stance towards Beijing’s growing global influence.