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Biden Goes to Brussels and Builds Front Against China, Russia

At a summit with EU leaders, President Joe Biden moved to align U.S. interests with those of European allies in his bid to build a common front against Beijing and Moscow.

(CN) --- On the eve of a tense summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday continued his weeklong effort to solder back together the partially broken relationship between the United States and the European Union by building a common front against Russia and China.

Since arriving in England last Wednesday, Biden has succeeded in bringing reluctant European allies on board with a U.S. strategy to resist China's growing global influence and power. His trip serves as a healing session to expunge the bad memory of former President Donald Trump, whose highly combative tone with European leaders threatened to unravel a decades-long friendship.

Biden's successes in Europe are prompting a fierce reaction from Beijing, which accused the West of “slandering” China's “peaceful development” and reanimating a “Cold War mentality.” The tough rhetoric from Washington and Brussels seems to be driving China closer to Russia too, with a top Chinese diplomat saying the two shared an “unbreakable relationship.”

Biden will sit down with Putin in Geneva on Wednesday. Relations between the West and Russia are seen to be at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Biden and Putin are not expected to announce any major breakthroughs but rather lay down so-called red lines and conditions for a more constructive and predictable relationship.      

Group of Seven and NATO summits over the weekend and on Monday resulted in a wide-ranging Transatlantic agreement to fuse even more of the West's monetary powers, military strengths, technological resources and liberal values in a titanic struggle against China and Russia. For the first time on Monday, NATO declared China a military “challenge,” citing its military cooperation with Russia, growing nuclear arsenal and establishment of military bases in Africa.

During Tuesday's summit in Brussels, Biden and EU leaders added more critical parts to this new Transatlantic pro-democratic, climate-friendly alliance against Russia and China, who they accuse of being authoritarian powers spreading illiberal values, corruption and repression around the globe. Russian and China retort that the U.S. is a hypocritical hegemon responsible for humanitarian and military disasters, most obviously in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.    

The U.S. and EU agreed to set up a new Transatlantic council to discuss and forge common policies to settle disputes arising over the thorny issues related to trade and the digital future, such as the privacy of data, boundaries for biotechnology, standards for artificial intelligence and quantum computing, rules for taxing profits made online.

On the trade side, officials said the new U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council will seek to find common ground to strengthen supply chains, resolve import and export disagreements and establish standards for investments.

“The notion here is that the United States and Europe laid the foundation for the world economy after World War II and now have to work together to write the rules of the road for the next generation, particularly in the areas of economics and emerging technologies,” a senior White House official said in a briefing with reporters.

This new council will begin work at a time when the EU is moving ahead with a broad set of new laws designed to promote climate-friendly business practices, such as taxing imports deemed to be bad for the Earth's atmosphere and establishing rules to determine which investments can be considered green.

At the same time, the EU has made stricter regulation of the digital economy and online world another cornerstone of its policymaking. It is seeking to curb the power of the U.S. tech giants, ban the untrammeled use of data collected from internet users and collect more taxes from online services. The bloc is also seeking to expand the digitalization of its economies and societies.


In many of these areas, the EU is plowing ahead into uncharted waters as it tries to build a legal framework to put into action the Paris Agreement's mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming.

After four years of Trump and with its politics still roiled by partisan divides, the U.S. is both playing catch-up to the EU in many of these climate-driven regulatory areas but it may also hope to use the council to convince Europeans to accept its more libertarian free-market instincts.

The White House said the State Department, the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative will be chairing the council. American officials said the council will help the U.S. and EU build a common front against what they say are China's unfair trade practices.

China's state-run, secretive and centrally managed model of capitalism has proven highly successful, lifting more than 800 million Chinese out of poverty and resulting in stunning growth rates, but it is increasingly viewed as based on unfair and undemocratic principles that leave global competitors at a disadvantage.

President Joe Biden, center, talks to the media with European Council President Charles Michel, right, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, during the United States-European Union Summit at the European Council in Brussels, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Biden also soothed relations with the EU by easing trade tensions and disputes that were fomented by Trump, who accused the EU of benefiting from unfair trade conditions. In 2018, Trump angered the EU when he slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe on dubious national security grounds.

Trump also fueled a long-running dispute between aircraft giants Boeing and Airbus over illegal subsidies. The World Trade Organization has found both the U.S. and the EU provided illegal subsidies and there were fears of tit-for-tat tariffs.

On Tuesday, the EU and U.S. said they had reached an agreement to end the 16-year-long Boeing-Airbus dispute. Under the deal, the U.S. said it was suspending tariffs against Airbus for five years and that the EU also was backing down on tariffs. Additionally, the deal stipulates conditions for both aircraft giants to not cooperate with China and for both sides of the Atlantic to work against China's aircraft industry.

The White House added that it was backing off from pursuing tariffs on a slew of other EU products.

Tuesday concluded a remarkable few days for Biden's efforts to revive U.S.-EU relations ahead of his summit with Putin.

At the G-7 summit in England, he got Japan and European powers to take a strong stance against China over allegations of human rights abuses and to back a plan to rival China's global infrastructure program in poorer parts of the world by mustering funds from private markets to pay for climate-friendly infrastructure projects. As a bonus, Biden got them to back a U.S. demand for a new investigation into whether the devastating novel coronavirus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan.

Next, Biden got the 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization to place China into its strategic thinking for the first time.

“When you add up three summits, the whole – we believe – will be greater than the sum of its parts,” the senior White House official said at the briefing. “It will be the United States rallying the world’s democracies around a tangible agenda to make real differences in the lives of the American people in terms of their health, their economic wellbeing, their physical security, and the planet that we live on.”

Still, it remains far from certain that Biden's strategy will pan out. Back in the U.S., the White House faces potential backlash to the president's dreams of the U.S. shouldering global responsibilities, such as assisting poor parts of the world through his infrastructure schemes, paying for a massive shift away from fossil fuels and policing the world at a time of great power rivalry.

Europeans, too, may wind up being much less eager than they now appear to follow the U.S. into a standoff with China. After the NATO summit, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both clarified that they do not want to be hostile toward China.

And perhaps the biggest question mark hanging over this new U.S.-EU alliance against China is whether the next occupant of the White House will scuttle all the goodwill. Europeans are wary of the possibility that Trump or a Republican of his ilk will return to the White House and dash the bridge Biden is building now across the Atlantic.

At the same time, China too will retaliate and try to get Europeans to reconsider their anti-China stance.

On Tuesday, the China mission to the EU lashed out at the NATO communiqué labeling China a military challenge for the alliance.

“NATO is slandering China’s peaceful development and misjudging the international situation and its own role,” a spokesperson for China's diplomats in the EU said in a statement. “It represents a continuation of the Cold War mentality and bloc politics.”

The Chinese statement pointed out that China's annual military spending is much smaller than NATO's, or about $209 billion compared to $1.1 trillion by the 30 NATO nations. It said China's nuclear arsenal pales in comparison to that of the NATO powers. The U.S., the United Kingdom and France possess nuclear weapons.

Complicating matters for the U.S., in Europe many see China's rise not so much as a threat but as a force for good on the world stage, agreeing with China's own projection of itself as a peaceful nation whose military buildup is primarily a defensive tactic against American aggression.

“The people of the world can see clearly who has military bases all over the world and who is flexing muscles by sending aircraft carriers all over the world,” the Chinese statement said, referring to the plethora of U.S. military bases and recent move by the U.S. to send an aircraft carrier through disputed waters in the South China Sea.

It added that China will “follow very closely NATO’s strategic adjustment and its policy adjustment towards China” and “not sit by and do nothing” if NATO threatens China.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

Categories:Government, International, Politics

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