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100 days later: Charting the course

Susan Danger

AmCham EU
28 Apr 2021
All Committees
Trade & External Affairs

Since the reign of Franklin D. Roosevelt, ‘the first 100 days’ has become the yardstick by which to judge a nascent administration’s performance. As the Biden-Harris Administration reaches the 100-day checkpoint, what course has been charted for EU-US relations?

Where we stand

With the pandemic ravaging economies and societies around the globe, it was clear that the domestic landscape would be the top priority for the new administration. The signing of the $1.9tn American Rescue Plan relief bill was the first major move by the new administration to tackle the domestic crisis wrought by the pandemic as President Biden pursues his ‘Build Back Better’ agenda.

On the international scene, the administration has been busy signalling to its allies from early on that the United States is ‘back’. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Brussels visit on 22 March sought to reaffirm the US’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance. This commitment was further evidenced by President Biden’s participation in the European Council summit on 25 March with the 27 heads of state of the European Union.

Where we’re heading

As the administration has settled in over the first 100 days, all the signs have so far been positive that Europe ‘remains America’s indispensable partner of first resort’. However, while resetting the tone of what had become an increasingly fractious political relationship was an important first step, now the ‘real work’ must begin. Moving forward, both sides must get down to the serious business of building substantively on the flurry of positive signals that have been sent in the first 100 days. 

Finding the ointment for persistent trade irritants

A phone call in March between President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen led to the temporary suspension of the longest-running tariff saga between the US and the EU. This was a very positive sign that the two sides are ready to move forward constructively to find a long-term solution. But four months is a small window of time to find that solution. We call on both sides to negotiate a speedy accord that would permanently bury the hatchet on this tariff-spat, which could pave the way to new global rules for aeroplane manufacturing subsidies generally.

Similarly, the US tariffs on EU steel and aluminium products on national security grounds led to retaliatory measures by the EU, which are set to double on 1 June in the absence of a negotiated settlement in the meantime. It is our conviction that the wider issue of global overcapacity in steel and aluminium is one that the two sides should be working together to tackle, instead of working against each other in a tit-for-tat tariff spat.

Data transfers between the EU and the US have been in a state of limbo since the Court of Justice of the EU struck down the Privacy Shield in mid-2020. US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders issued a joint-statement in March reiterating both sides’ commitment to reinstating a transatlantic data transfer mechanism. We hope that the two sides can quickly find a sustainable successor agreement that can stand up to scrutiny and ensure business continuity in the long-term for all companies, but particularly SMEs on both sides of the Atlantic.

"While resetting the tone of what had become an increasingly fractious political relationship was an important first step, now the ‘real work’ must begin"

Exploring new areas for further cooperation

As both sides of the Atlantic grapple with the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is widespread recognition that now is the critical moment to invest in a new age of economic activity – one that places sustainability and the climate agenda at its core. Furthermore, with the pervasiveness of new and emerging technologies, the transformative power of the digital economy is being felt. The ‘twin transition’ towards a sustainable, digital economy opens up new fronts for close cooperation between the EU and the US.

The US’ return to the multilateral climate discussion in the form of the Paris Agreement, as well as President Biden’s summit on Earth Day in April sends all the right signals. But increasing the scope of cooperation further in areas such as decarbonisation of trade, and collaborative action to avoid ‘carbon leakage’ into their markets would also send a strong message of unity, as well as facilitate the development and setting of global standards by two of the world’s biggest markets.

Furthermore, the EU’s proposal for a trade and technology council as a forum where the two sides could develop common approaches to regulation of emerging areas of key strategic importance, such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, 5G connectivity and the Internet of Things (IOT), automated mobility and many more would give the transatlantic relationship a boost in both competitiveness and in shaping global standards according to our common values.

100 days later: the way is now paved

In his first 100 days, President Biden has set the tone. The US is ready to engage with the world once again. Most significantly for American businesses invested in Europe, the administration has reaffirmed the value it places in the transatlantic partnership. This paves the way for EU-US joint action in an array of areas. Ultimately, we need across-the-board cooperation between the US and the EU to give ourselves a fighting chance of completing the transformative agendas laid out on both sides of the Atlantic. After 100 days, the flight course has been set. Now we must power up the engines and accelerate towards our destination.

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