US President Joe Biden came, saw and conquered before he set foot on European soil. After four years of decisiveness on “open strategic autonomy”, the European Union is once again leaning on the American pillar.
The last EU-US summit dates back to 2014, with Herman Van Rompuy as President of the European Council. The next edition, Tuesday in Brussels, will be one of only 90 minutes. However, getting all EU countries involved in the joint statement afterwards is a major task.
In the lead-up to this, Joe Biden hopes to appease the leaders of the Group of Seven and NATO. Not that these partners are wiping the sponge during the perilous period with iconic warrior Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor. But the style break is there and Biden has prepared his journey well and especially the direction he wants to offer for renewed cooperation.
Biden sees Europe, Canada and Japan as natural allies who share the same values and ambitions. Despite this renewed “family feeling”, interests on both sides of the ocean do not run parallel. There is a lot of noise about the most important issues on the table of the Group of Seven and the Euro-American Summit.
Europe and the United States want to see the whole world vaccinated as quickly as possible. At their summit in Cornwall, Britain, this weekend, G7 nations will pledge at least one billion additional doses of the vaccine next year to Covax, which distributes vaccines in developing countries. But before leaving for Europe, Biden put his partners on hold: The United States will provide 200 million vaccines this year and 300 million in 2022.
Such PR stunts give Biden significant moral authority. Although these vaccines are not produced in developing countries but in the United States. Earlier, Biden also launched a plan to suspend vaccine patents. But the Americans have not yet put a detailed proposal on the table. The European Commission is now trying to guide the debate at the World Trade Organization (WTO) with an alternative plan, including the use of compulsory licenses and the creation of production sites in Africa. European Parliament increases pressure: Hemisphere voted on Thursday on a resolution to temporarily suspend patents.
alternative silk road
Biden asks the European Union to support the investigation into the causes of the epidemic. European Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agree: “We need complete transparency about what happened to learn the right lessons from the pandemic.”
This investigation is just one of many stocks Biden is targeting against his number one strategic enemy, China. Love for China has cooled in Europe, too. The investment agreement with China is pending and will not be passed through the European Parliament. Lithuania withdrew from the Chinese Silk Road project. Even China’s biggest fan, Viktor Orban, was forced to call a referendum on the construction of the Fudan University Chinese campus after street protests.
Biden is also asking G7 partners to support investment in major infrastructure projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. With this alternative to China’s Silk Road, Biden wants to break Beijing’s influence in large parts of the world. The willingness to do so is there. There is less enthusiasm in Europe for the tough geopolitical approach to China that Biden advocates. German Chancellor Angela Merkel in particular does not want to leave herself in front of the American vehicle in that file.
commerce and technology
The best opportunities for cooperation between Europe and the United States lie in trade and technology. Europe and the United States will rank their trade disputes vertically this year. For Biden, this is also a plan to reduce China’s technical advantage and strengthen democracy. This cooperation will take the form of the Trade and Technology Council. The two economic superpowers want to set common standards for the use of cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence.
“New technology is fundamentally reshaping the world, exposing vulnerabilities such as ransomware attacks or deep artificial intelligence surveillance,” Biden wrote in an opinion piece for The Washington Post ahead of his European tour. “The world’s democracies must work together to ensure that our values guide the use and development of those innovations, not the interests of autocrats.”
The world’s democracies must work together to ensure that our values guide the use and development of those innovations, not the interests of autocrats.
That sounds nice and is the main added value in the draft statement of the EU-US summit on Tuesday. But there, too, caution is the mother of the Chinese shop: Previous advisory structures, such as the Transatlantic Economic Council from the younger Bush’s era, have disappeared annoyingly and unnoticed.