No products in the cart.
Press the play button to listen to this article
At first glance, transatlantic relations look rosier since Donald Trump left the White House. There is no longer a US president in public who attacks German cars and accuses Angela Merkel of not paying her NATO bills.
But take a closer look, and it turns out that in everything from trade and taxes to coronavirus vaccines, U.S. President Joe Biden has just as much pain in Brussels’ bureaucratic bum as his predecessor – right there, the EU to hit where it hurts while robbing it of the moral height it likes to occupy.
Biden’s bombshell proposal to surrender intellectual property rights to coronavirus vaccines is a perfect example of this as the EU is now teetering in the PR war, all too aware that it has suddenly become a comic book villain who Big Pharma rights advocate poor nations.
“The real change is that, to our great amazement, including mine, the Biden government is really changing the general narrative on these issues, which we never thought possible,” said Kathleen Van Brempt, a Belgian MEP and MP the most important person of the socialist group on trade.
America’s vaccine move is not an isolated one. In just a few months, Biden has exposed both the folly of the EU’s trade policy towards China and Europe’s lack of ambition to tax digital multinationals.
Angry with Europeans, while the cursory political optics have improved, it turns out that Biden is as tough as Trump on issues that really interest the EU, as is Germany’s plans to deliver gas from Russia via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to buy.
While Biden has sought to defuse a long-standing wage dispute over subsidies to Airbus and Boeing, the new president has also left much of Trump’s trade policy untouched, including steel tariffs and a blockade of the World Trade Organization’s judicial system. Indeed, on some fronts, he is pushing Europe more strongly than Trump. Biden’s quest for a “Buy American” policy, which favors US companies in large public tenders, is even drawing countermeasures from the EU camp.
A hundred days after the new government began, Europeans feel that they are being offered rather hard love by their ally.
Biden’s surprising move to publicly support India and South Africa for a surrender of the intellectual property rights of coronavirus vaccines was just the latest example of a number of outsiders who not only run counter to the EU’s economic interests, but – unlike Trump – also called the bluff of the allegedly progressive leadership of Brussels.
In a sign that even France, which officially supported the abolition of intellectual property, was not enthusiastic about the attitude of the Biden government, Junior European Minister Clément Beaune told POLITICO that it was “a very political move because it has not yet exported anything have “conditions for vaccines.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also tried on Thursday to shift the focus to vaccine exports, where Europe is a more responsible global player. While the EU “was ready to evaluate how the US proposal could help to achieve” the goal of increasing vaccine production, “we urge all vaccine-producing countries to export immediately and avoid measures that disrupt supplies Chains “, they tweeted. The accusation against the behavior of the USA was clear.
However, Van Brempt of the European Parliament pointed out that Biden had exposed the failure of Brussels. “I remember that Ursula von der Leyen said in one of her first speeches after the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis that nobody is safe unless everyone is safe. She set the scene: We Europeans, we will stand together with the rest of the world. ” World. And then we don’t. “
China was another very strategic area where the US made the EU seem hypocritical for thinking about “European values”. Under the leadership of Germany and its key automotive industry, the EU signed a trade deal with Beijing late last year, allaying human rights concerns and requests from the new Biden government to deliberate on the deal.
While it was Trump’s Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo who first called China’s persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang “genocide”, the Biden government doubled down by formalizing the name in a report – adding moral pressure on EU countries to take a stand, too, and turned the eyes of the world to the German automobile manufacturer Volkswagen’s plant in the region.
Now that the Brussels-Beijing accord is dissolving – and key members of the European Parliament pledge never to ratify it after Beijing imposed sanctions on them – US trade representative Katherine Tai has again ironically suggested that it is time for one Conversation could be. She was too polite to say, “We told you” about the implosion of the deal. Instead, she merely remarked that the EU agreement “was an issue of great interest here within the administration … the terms of this agreement are currently being reviewed in Europe, and that interests me too, and I expect we will.” an opportunity to learn more in our conversations with our European colleagues. “
Most unexpectedly, Americans have outwitted Europe on tax justice, a longstanding point of contention between Brussels and Washington where the EU firmly believes it is fighting the good fight.
As with the steel tariffs and the WTO blockade, Biden has held the stick and largely continued Trump’s policies. He has upheld the threat to impose tariffs on French luxury goods valued at billions via Emmanuel Macron’s digital tax. USTR Tai is also actively following new investigations. Just last Monday, Washington started proceedings to retaliate with tariffs against Austria, Italy and Spain for their digital taxes.
But unlike Trump, Biden wins the moral height at the same time. In another curveball move last month, Biden blinded EU leaders. In international talks about global taxation, he proposed a worldwide minimum corporate tax of 21 percent – much more ambitious than the EU proposal of 12.5 percent. And it’s one that causes all sorts of problems for EU countries like Ireland – but also France, to its embarrassment – that view their low effective corporate tax rate as a unique selling point.
Biden’s plan to tax the world’s 100 largest companies would include Google and Facebook, but also non-digital giants like Volkswagen and French oil and gas giant Total.
Berlin and Paris are now under pressure to explain why they would not support a higher minimum tax for multinational corporations after years of tax justice.
When asked if he supported the tax, Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier said last week that Berlin still had to investigate “the efficiency and scope” of the US proposal. “My impression is that our French friends in Paris are also very impressed [by Biden’s tax initiative] and will give him a chance, ”said Altmaier diplomatically.
Van Brempt of the Socialists said all of Biden’s moves had increased pressure on the EU to become more coherent.
“We thought he was going to turn all the bad things back on Trump, start negotiations on multilateral issues, try to resolve the situation at the WTO, be more diplomatic and join forces with Europe,” she said. “And he doesn’t – he is absolutely wholesome for what he believes in. That is wonderful because I believe in it … But of course it is very confronting that we Europeans are suddenly lagging behind all these progressive issues that we usually lead. “
Do you want more analysis of POLITICO? POLITICO Pro is our premium news service for professionals. From financial services to commerce, technology to cybersecurity and more, Pro offers the real-time intelligence, deep insights, and critical information you need to stay one step ahead. E-mail [email protected] to request a free trial.