EU-U.S. Summit the ‘Perfect Opportunity’ to Resolve Outstanding Disputes, Say Business Groups

U.S. and EU Currency with Jigsaw Motif

Trade Update • MAY 30, 2021

Outlining their trade priorities ahead of scheduled summit in Brussels next month between U.S. President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel, two influential trade lobby groups representing business enterprises on both sides of the Atlantic issued a joint statement last week touting the event as “the perfect opportunity for the United States and the European Union to resolve several outstanding commercial disputes.”

The summit, the first such top-level meeting since 2014, “represents an essential opportunity to reaffirm American and European leadership in addressing the biggest challenges we face responding to the pandemic, jumpstarting the nascent global economic recovery, addressing climate change, ensuring digital connectivity, and countering China’s anticompetitive practices at home and abroad,” said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and BusinessEurope. Bearing all that in mind, the groups called on leaders to:

  • Chart a course to rescind U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs and associated European countermeasures
    Agree on terms to resolve the large civil aircraft disputes and permanently lift the tariffs imposed in connection with them
  • Reinforce bilateral cooperation in the manufacture and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to demonstrate global leadership toward defeating the pandemic and commit to the elimination of trade restrictions relating to goods tied to pandemic response
  • Swiftly conclude a successor to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield agreement and refrain from targeting transatlantic data transfers until a new accord is in place

Scrapping U.S. Metals Tariffs

The groups stressed that eliminating U.S. tariffs on European steel and aluminum is “a matter of urgency.” While applauding the EU’s recent decision not to proceed with a hike in retaliatory tariffs that had been set for June 1, the ultimate goal “must be the removal of all related tariffs by both sides while agreeing to new measures to address overcapacity, transshipment, and possible import surges.”

Opposition to Vaccine Patent Waiver

Urging leaders to “ensure open trade flows in raw materials and inputs required for vaccine production and allow vaccine exports particularly to those countries in greatest need,” the groups warned that a proposed TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver, now backed by the Biden administration, “would threaten to unleash a global scramble” for the scarce supply of highly specialized production inputs and thereby undermine the ramp up of global vaccine manufacturing.

Revised Privacy Shield Agreement

The groups also called on leaders to “swiftly conclude” a revised EU-U.S. Privacy Shield agreement. A framework established in 2016 for regulating transatlantic exchanges of personal data for commercial purposes between the EU and U.S., the Privacy Shield was declared invalid last year by the European Court of Justice after ruling that it failed to adequately protect Europeans’ data from U.S. legal activities.

Since the decision, “businesses on both sides of the Atlantic have faced profound uncertainty about transferring personal information out of Europe,” according to the groups, something they contend “is essential for transatlantic commerce in the digital age.”

A Future Tech Alliance?

Looking past the summit, the business groups concluded by suggesting that Brussels and Washington should “leverage [the] momentum” from accomplishing the above-noted goals to establish “a forward-looking strategic dialogue” via a forum, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council recently proposed by the European Commission.

“Whether on artificial intelligence, data flows, finding innovative solutions to climate change, or developing common standards on emerging technologies, among other issues, a transatlantic approach will enable us to respond to the growing challenges posed by non-market economies like China,” the groups said.

Sign Up for Trade Updates

Get weekly or daily insights into all things trade, delivered right to your inbox.

* indicates required