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US, France vow to settle spat over green industry subsidies

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US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands after a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2022./AFP
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Dec 02, 2022 - 07:43 AM

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday US support for green industry was not intended to be at Europe’s expense as he and French leader Emmanuel Macron pledged to surmount a serious transatlantic trade dispute.

Speaking after summit talks at the White House, both stressed cooperation amid European Union concern that Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was anti-competitive and would cost European jobs, especially in the energy and auto sectors.

“We agreed to discuss practical steps to coordinate and align our approaches so that we can strengthen and secure the supply chains, manufacturing and innovation on both sides of the Atlantic,” Biden said in a joint news conference.

Biden said he would not apologize for the $430 billion IRA passed in August that largely focuses investments and investment support on climate and social spending.

But he said the IRA was never intended to disadvantage any US allies.

Instead, it aimed at strengthening industrial supply chains together with partners like Europe to protect against the kind of economic vulnerabilities that surfaced during the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

“The essence of it is, we’re going to make sure that the United States continues — and just as I hope Europe will be able to continue — not to have to rely on anybody else’s supply chain,” Biden said.

“We are our own supply chain. And we share that with Europe and all of our allies, and they will in fact have the opportunity to do the same thing,” Biden said.

He admitted the legislation is so large and complicated that it unavoidably has “glitches” that need to be worked out.

“My point is, we’re back in business, Europe is back in business. And we’re going to continue to create manufacturing jobs in America, but not at the expense of Europe,” he pledged.

‘Resynchronize’ 

Macron acknowledged that the IRA goal of creating jobs and advancing the transition to green energy was “a common objective” shared by Europe.

He said that the IRA’s subsidies for US industry threatened to hurt European businesses, and that a central issue of his talks with Biden was how to “resynchronize” and work together with similar strategies.

After meetings with Biden and members of the US Congress, Macron said he felt that they had the same intent.

“We want to succeed together — not against each other,” Macron said.

“We Europeans need to move faster and stronger to have the same ambition.”

But the two gave no sign of whether they agreed on specific measures.

In early November, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton threatened to appeal to the World Trade Organization and consider “retaliatory measures” if the United States did not reverse its subsidies.

The two sides will address specific issues in a meeting on December 5 of the  EU-US Trade and Technology Council.

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