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US and EU need to write the rules for new technologies before China, says US Secretary Raimondo

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By Euronews
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Secretary Gina Raimondo joined President Biden in his visit to Brussels
Secretary Gina Raimondo joined President Biden in his visit to Brussels   -   Copyright  Evan Vucci/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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The United States and the European Union "need to write the rules of the road" for emerging technologies in order to prevent China from becoming the global rule-setter, says US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

"China doesn't share our values. They don't share our values around privacy. They don't share our values around human rights protections or our strong and free democracy, and free and open society. So we, together with Europe, need to write the rules of the road," Raimondo told Euronews.

"The real strategy is to have a strong America and a strong EU, [a] strong American industry and innovation and entrepreneurship, and the same here in Europe because together we are stronger. I think that is the best way to have our strategy succeed as it relates to China."

Raimondo joined Joe Biden on his first visit to Brussels as US president where he attended an EU-US summit alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel.

She held meetings with European Commission vice-presidents Valdis Dombrovskis, in charge of trade, and Margrethe Vestager, who oversees the bloc's digital policy.

One of the main achievements from the summit was the launch of a high-level EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) to coordinate and strengthen cooperation on technology, digital issues and supply chains, as well to support research, design international standards, facilitate regulation and promote innovation by American and European companies.

The TTC will include various working groups specialised in areas such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, green technology, data governance and the misuse of technology against human rights.

The EU and the US also intend to build a partnership to rebalance the global supply chains in semiconductors (chips) and reduce their dependence on Taiwan, South Korea and other Asian countries. The global economy is in the midst of a semiconductor shortage which has hurt the manufacturing sector on both sides of the Atlantic.

Additionally, the two partners have promised to establish a Joint Technology Competition Policy Dialogue with a focus on competition policy and enforcement and to explore a new research initiative on biotechnology and genomics.

"We have a number of tech knowledge issues to work through and it's in our best interest to work through them together with Europe, with whom we share values, democracy and privacy. So instead of just dealing with cybersecurity or semiconductors or artificial intelligence or privacy -- to take them as a whole will be more efficient and effective," Raimondo explains regarding the TTC's purpose.

"Quite frankly, there will be challenges. We won't agree always on everything. But to consider them in this forum where we can keep our eye on the prize of our shared values, I think will enable us to work through the issues which is in our mutual best interest."

'Relief and optimism'

Tuesday's EU-US summit resulted in a series of diplomatic breakthroughs, including the suspension of a trade dispute on aircraft subsidies, the establishment of a climate action group and a COVID-19 vaccine task force, and pledges to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international corporate tax system.

But one prominent issue remained unresolved: the tariffs on imports and exports of steel and aluminium, first imposed during the administration of Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump.

The so-called "Trump tariffs" were set at 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium coming from the EU. The European Commission estimates these levies represent €6.4 billion worth of trade.

As a countermove, Brussels imposed extra duties on a list of US imports, such as steel, peanut butter, whiskey, motorcycles and jeans, worth €2.8 billion. A scheduled hike of €3.6 billion in retaliatory charges was suspended in May to give dialogue a chance to succeed.

"That's one of the many things we've inherited from President Trump that we need to work through and resolve, and we're committed to doing that," remarks Raimondo.

The two partners want to resolve the dispute before the end of the year, but Biden's domestic agenda of "build back better" could derail a settlement. Last month, US steel industry groups and workers union sent a letter to the American present asking him to keep the tariffs in place.

"Eliminating the steel tariffs now would undermine the viability of our industry," the collective wrote, arguing the duties have led to $15.7 billion in new investments inside the country.

As a condition to lift the tariffs, Washington wants to work hand in hand with Brussels to tackle what they consider the trade-distorting policies generated by Beijing.

"The real problem isn't the EU per se: it's China and the oversupply of cheap and dirty steel and aluminium that China is driving into our markets and then spills over into America, threatening our steel industry and our steel workers, which are vital," the Commerce Secretary said.

Excess capacity occurs when demand for a product is less than the amount a business can potentially supply. China has long been accused of this practice: the country continues to pile up millions of tonnes of steel and aluminium that its domestic consumers don't purchase.

As Chinese capacity grows and stocks are sold abroad, American and European companies suffer from unfair competition, which triggers a decrease in production and a depression of prices.

"It's complex. It's complicated. It's not quite as easy as waiving the tariffs because we do have to protect our steel industry. Having said that, I had a series of meetings while I've been [in Brussels] and I am optimistic that we will be able to work to a solution," the Commerce Secretary says.

Despite the thorn left in the agenda, Raimondo thinks the EU-US summit was a chance to show the world that the two old-time partners are back in action.

"I think I felt from the Europeans relief that President Biden is here and that the America they've come to know and love is back. And great optimism: optimism that we friends, longtime friends, are back at the table working together, sharing common values and solving problems together."