France is derailing US-EU tech trade meeting

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France is derailing a joint EU-US declaration on technology cooperation against the sentiments of other European Union countries, according to several EU diplomats.

The top US and EU officials plan to discuss semiconductor shortages, artificial intelligence, and competitiveness in the tech market during an inaugural meeting of the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) on Wednesday.

EU diplomats said France wanted to remove a reference to a second meeting in the spring of 2022 when the French presidential election will be held. It also wanted to remove language proposing a semiconductor supply chain collaboration between the EU and the US that’s mutually dependent. France wants less dependency on the US.

France; the holdout

One of the EU diplomats said that there is a consensus, ‘minus one.’ Another EU diplomat said that France’s view was that the supply went beyond just a short-term semiconductor problem, including things like vaccines, and that the US itself did not wish to be dependent on the bloc.

France, the diplomat added, has insisted that the approach should be more prudent while remembering that transatlantic trust needs rebuilding. The European Commission, which watches over EU trade policy, said it was resolving pending but minor issues and seemed sure it would finalize the statement in time for the Pittsburg meeting.

Some kinks to iron out

Antony Blinken (US Secretary of State), Gina Raimondo (Commerce Secretary), Katherine Tal (US Trade Representative) will host Valdis Dombrowski and Margrethe Vestager (vice presidents of the European Commission) in a forum that also plans to discuss tech standards.

It was not clear how the EU members will reach an agreement in time before the meeting, although the European Commission is talking with France and its EU counterparts. The six-hour time difference between Washington and Brussels introduces some complications. Diplomats said that France holding out has more to do with its belief in EU autonomy and less to do with the recent $40 billion submarine contract where Australia opted to go with the US, cancelling its deal with France.