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EU and US step up collaboration on tech and supply chain issues

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The second EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) meeting in Paris fleshed out various areas of transatlantic cooperation, including semiconductor supplies and AI policy.

The TTC was recently set up ostensibly to address global trade and technology issues both the EU and US share, layered with some more conventual foreign policy signalling – evident in the caveat that these issues are tackled ‘in line with their shared commitment to democracy, freedom and human rights.’

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and its consequences within the remit of trade and tech informed some of the key outcomes of the meeting, including commitments to help rebuild Ukraine’s economy and facilitate trade and investment, establishing a cooperation framework to counter Russia’s ‘information manipulation and interference’, and export controls on advanced tech such as aerospace and cyber surveillance.

“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has further underlined the key importance of our cooperation with the US on economic and technology issues,” said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age and co-chair of the TTC. “This cooperation goes beyond our reaction to the war. Together with our transatlantic partners, we can create a positive vision for our economies and for a democratic governance of the internet based on the dignity and integrity of the individual. When we act together, we can set the standards of tomorrow’s economy. We are joining forces and when two such determined partners take the lead, we can enable the tides to turn.”

One of the most devastating factors to production within both EU and US economies has been the disruption of global semiconductor chips supplies, which predates the Russian invasion. To counter this, the TCC have agreed to develop a ‘common early warning and monitoring mechanism’ which Intended to increase preparedness of disruptions ahead of time and avoid a subsidy races.

There was also talk of joint US-EU public financing of digital projects in third countries, which presumably means funding projects in countries outside the borders of either region, which it hopes will foster more resilient supply chains.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, added: “Transatlantic collaboration on supply chains and digital technologies is crucial to defend our common interests and values. Having successfully worked with the United States on supply chain bottlenecks for vaccine ingredients, I am pleased to see a joint ambition to strengthen supply chain resilience in other areas, from raw materials to semiconductors. The Paris summit is an important moment for the Trade and Technology Council to transform the transatlantic dialogue into concrete results.”

Elsewhere the TCC discussed developing a ‘joint roadmap on evaluation and measurement tools for trustworthy AI and risk management.’ This is something that’s been discussed within the fringes of science and tech circles for a while – in the pursuit of ever more powerful artificial intelligence programmes, should measures be put in place to ensure the technology develops in line with our best interests? We doubt anyone at the meeting explicitly mentioned Skynet, but you can bet a couple of them were thinking it.

The TCC has not one but two massive bureaucracies behind it, so it’s probably wise not to expect anything tangible to emerge from it next week – but all in all it represents a tightening of the relationship between the EU and US on key trade and technology issues.

There was plenty to put their heads together and try to solve when the supply chain crisis hit a year or so ago, but perhaps closer collaboration has been accelerated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on both an ideological level and in terms of the disruption to international trade it is exacerbating.

 

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