February 24, 2024

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council Ministerial Co-Chairs Joint Press Availability

MR PATEL:  Good afternoon, everybody.  We will take four questions.  The first question goes to Yuka Hayashi with The Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Thank you very much for doing this.  I would like to ask about the disagreement over the (inaudible) Inflation Reduction Act.  Could you give us the highlights of what was discussed today and whether the two sides are any closer now than we were?  And specifically, President Biden mentioned last week that the U.S. could make tweaks to the IRA to address some of the concerns of the allies.  Could you give us specifics about what those tweaks would be and if there’s been progress on those?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great.  Thank you.  I’m happy to start.  Let me just first put this in context.  The Inflation Reduction Act represents the most significant investment in dealing with the climate challenge that we both face that has ever been made, and that investment is going to be to the benefit of people in the United States, in Europe, indeed around the world, as it sees fruition, making sure that renewable energy comes online as soon as possible, that it does it at low prices, that it creates good jobs, including on both sides of the Atlantic, and that ultimately it benefits our planet.  And so we’ve been moving forward on that.  At the same time, we’ve heard concerns clearly from our European friends about certain specific aspects of the legislation.  As soon as we heard those concerns, we agreed to establish a task force between the United States and the European Union that is up and running.

President Biden, as you heard, reinforced our commitment to work together to address the concerns.  We’re doing that efficiently.  We’re doing that quickly.  And today, I think we advanced that discussion.  We talked today in the context of the TTC about the electric vehicle tax credit, about the commercial vehicle tax credit.  We talked about critical minerals and the supply chain.  And coming out of these conversations and feeding into the work of the task force, I’m convinced that we are continuing to give momentum to that conversation and to working through the differences as President Biden said we would do.

MS VESTAGER: I think this is really helpful to show that there is a real concern where there are an analysis that shows that there is a potential fallout of the Inflation Reduction Act on the European industrial base.  To have the discussions that we have had today, to have the feedback from our U.S. partners, I think that is of critical importance to enhance the relationship that we have created within the framework of the Trade and Technology Council.

In Europe, we will have to do our homework as well because we will fight climate change together, but we will do that with our respective industrial bases.  So obviously we are also in the process of seeing what kind of help is needed, targeted temporary for European industry to be up to the challenge.  It’s been very inspiring to work within the framework of the TTC on transparency and subsidies.  You’d see the results that we have achieved on semiconductors.  I find that absolutely crucial.  We are actively promoting this.  It is actually my area of responsibility within the commission.  So we have been analyzing this now for some time.

But there’s no way that this can be a separate response.  We need also to see what can be done within the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act.  But the most important thing is probably that the U.S. is fully engaged in fighting climate change.  I think that is absolutely the best news.  We can solve the things that are of concern.  We have shown that before.  We’ll show that again.  But the most important message, I think, for everyone is that we are together in what is needed to fight climate change and make our promises and our obligations a real thing — on ground — for people to benefit from.

MR DOMBROVSKIS:  Well, as we engage in green and digital transformations of our economy, of course we must work together with likeminded partners and allies.  And that’s exactly what we are doing here at the Trade and Technology Council, seeing how we can strengthen our corporation, how we can build resilient value chains, and how we can do this together.

President Biden was very clear in his statements that it was never meant to be construed European allies.  And I will say also today’s discussion, as Secretary Blinken already outlined, focused to move things forward as regards U.S. Inflation Reduction Act.  There is lots of talk about friendshoring and cooperation in those areas.

So I would say that really today we are leaving this meeting slightly more optimistic than we were entering this meeting.  But we also know that Inflation Reduction Act – a number of provisions enters into force already, others January 1st of next year, and so we still have a lot of work to do.  The joint EU-U.S. high-level task force continues its work, though obviously now EU had additional inputs to those, and we hope that it will deliver concrete results still this year.

MR PATEL:  Next, we’ll go to Erwan Lucas with the AFP.

QUESTION:  Thank you for taking my question.  My question is:  What are the (inaudible) that the American administration will take into account (inaudible) presence regarding Iran (inaudible)?  And I have another question (inaudible) regarding Iran and what has happened, and I was wondering if you’ve seen any attempt since the reports of the disintegration of the morality police?  Thoughts?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Look, on the first question, I think we’ve all addressed it.  The bottom line is this:  We are committed to moving forward together – not at the expense of each other but to the benefit of each other – and that is profoundly the commitment of President Biden.  You heard President von der Leyen speak to this just yesterday as well.  And I’m convinced, as my colleagues are, that we have a good path forward.  The task force is doing its work.  We’ll do it expeditiously and we will work through it.

Separately on Iran, we have seen since the killing of Mahsa Amini an extraordinary phenomenon of incredibly courageous people, especially women, taking to the streets of Iran to make their voices heard, to make their opinions known, to make clear that they have a view and a vision for their country and for themselves that they want to be taken into account and heard.  And of course we’ve also seen the regime take terribly repressive measures that are resulting in the deaths of many people, including children.

Now we’ve seen the reports of the disbanding of the morality police.  We’ve also seen a denial that that’s the case, so I don’t know where exactly this is – this is going to go.  But the main thing is this is about the aspirations of the Iranian people and this is about whether the regime will take those into account and act on them or not.  But the efforts to repress, to use violence, hold people back, that is not a sign of strength.  That’s a sign of weakness.

MR PATEL:  Next we’ll go to Ana Swanson from New York Times.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you.  Has there been any discussion during this TTC of the U.S. requests that European semiconductors like ASML and the maintenance technology that they’re sending to China?  For European officials, is this something that will still be controlled at the level of the members’ governments for some time to come?

And then I was curious if you could give any sense of the progress you’ve made towards trying to determine a common methodology for embedded emissions or a timeline for (inaudible).  Is this possible by next year?

SECRETARY RAIMONDO:  I’ll take that first question.  One of the areas of focus of the TTC is aligning our approaches on semiconductors.  Much has been said about how we’re going to work in the TTC in the task force to resolve the IRA tensions, but it’s important to also note we want to get ahead of the issues on other areas of emerging technology, most particularly semiconductors.  So I think some of the most important impactful work coming out of the TTC relates to how we’re aligning on semiconductors.

We, in the context of the TTC, have – we’re collaborating around an early warning system for supply chain disruptions.  We are collaborating and aligning around how we share information about our subsidies so that we work together to coordinate our subsidies and also around export controls.  So while we did not talk specifically today about ASML, we did speak extensively about export controls generally as it relates to semiconductors, and I think the TTC will play a very important role in aligning export control strategy – by the way, just as it did with respect to Russia.

The reason that the U.S. and the EU were able to lead with such speed after the war broke out with Russia was because of the work that the TTC laid the groundwork for that around export controls, and I think you’ll continue to see that on semiconductors.

We are continuing to work daily, weekly, talking with the Netherlands and the government and are optimistic that we will be able to align.

AMBASSADOR TAI:  And on your question on emissions, that goes to the global sustainable steel arrangement that we’ve been working on.  Now, Gina and I and Valdis came to an agreement October 31 of last year.  We’ve given ourselves two years to work towards a trade arrangement between the U.S. and the EU where we put the power and leverage of our markets together to create a free, fair, and a clean market structure for pushing the future of trade in steel and aluminum.

Absolutely it is possible.  We are on track.  We have been talking about this – Valdis and I met at the end of October.  We touched base on it again right now.  I think it is one of the most consequential things that we’re working on between the U.S. and the EU with respect to trade, and I think that it is an important part of the track record that we have Washington to Brussels in terms of taking some of the most challenging issues of our time, some of the things that have been really challenging between us, and demonstrating that we can exercise leadership with a vision for the future.  And I think that informs everything that we do in the TCC and adjacent to the TTC, whether it’s the global steel arrangement, the Large Civil Aircraft Working Group –Valdis and I also had a ministerial just yesterday – and also the Trade and Labor Dialogue that we kicked off this morning.  So it reflects the instructions that President Biden has made very, very clear in terms of constructive U.S. engagement with the EU.

MR DOMBROVSKIS:  Well, let me just direct one more point towards what Katherine just said.  Among other things, in today’s Trade and Technology Council, we agreed to launch transatlantic initiative on sustainable trade.  Indeed, we are already working on those carbon footprint methodologies in the context of our global steel arrangement, but with a transatlantic initiative on sustainable trade we can make it broader because it will provide a common language for understanding many things, how the carbonization is actually being done and how – what the actual progress is.

MS VESTAGER:  And if I should add one thing to what Gina said, is that I think we have achieved quite remarkable agreement on semiconductors – on how to prevent new shortages, on how to make sure that we have an overview as to work to come, but also on transparency on subsidies.  We had, I think, a very strong stakeholder event after our meeting.  And on my question, do you think this will be a good thing on other areas as well, I think there’s a very strong support from the community around the TTC for more transparency on subsidies.  Because in Europe there’s of course subsidies, but what is in front of us is that it’s controlled, it’s transparent, and it’s not more than necessary so the tax holders – the taxpayers, they really get value for money.  And we’ve had, I think, excellent exchanges of that because it’s done in different ways.  But I think the ambition to make sure that investment is done at the lowest expense of taxpayers with the most efficiency, that is a shared value.

So we will push for that transparency.  I think we agree on this.  And stakeholders, they really ask for this to happen.

MR PATEL:  Final question, we’ll go to Aime Williams with the Financial Times.

QUESTION:  So European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen suggested overhauling EU state aid rules to make public investment in green technology easier.  I was wondering if the U.S. side would have any response to that.

AMBASSADOR TAI:  I think that one of the things that we’re doing in the TTC serves as a real inspiration for the complementarity and the cooperation that we’re demonstrating in where we are right now with respect to competitiveness, economic security, and the transatlantic bond over our values and our vision for a shared future.

With respect to semiconductors – and this is really Gina and Margrethe’s area – but we each have our own CHIPS Act.  And we are having really important conversations between governments and also with our stakeholders, a very, very broad base of stakeholders, to talk about how we can deploy these types of support measures in the smartest, most strategic way possible in the vision – in pursuit of a vision for a resilient economy.

And I think that that is very much consistent with the spirit that we are bringing to the issues around the green transition and our pursuit for a clean future economy as well.

MS VESTAGER:  And maybe not just on that note, because in order to deliver as fast as possible an overhaul of state aid rules, we have been at it for quite some time because otherwise these processes, they take a very long time.  So we are already delivering on how to support decarbonizing, sort of standalone, for instance, to enable green steel.  And we are using the treaty itself so that we don’t need to create new rules, but we can use existing rules.  And that is what has enabled us to support sort of first-of-a-kind investment in establishing productive capacity within the semiconductor ecosystem, in particular in Italy, for new types of wafers.  And we will continue this work as set because we have this very strong work on the semiconductor value chain, because the U.S. and Europe should present in the future a much bigger bite of that.

So that is how we try to advance what we do and to gain the necessary speed, building on what we have done and our basic rules of the European treaty.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’ll just take one final step back because I think it’s important.  This is the third meeting now of the Trade and Technology Council.  We first met in Pittsburgh.  Then we were outside of Paris.  Now we’re here in Maryland and thrilled to be here.  And I think what we’ve demonstrated and continue to demonstrate is that when we are working together between the United States and the European Union to build ever-greater convergence on some of the most critical issues of our time, we can do that in a way that will benefit people on both sides of the Atlantic, and ultimately benefit people around the world.

We’ve seen very practical, positive work done in these three sessions on everything you’ve heard – several of them alluded to – on converging on export controls, and that mechanism proved incredibly powerful, as Secretary Raimondo said, when it came to dealing with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine; on having secure supply chains, particularly for semiconductors; convergence on investment screening methods that’s both inward- and outward-bound; convergence on dealing with non-market practices by certain countries.  In each of these areas, this coming together of the TTC is making practical, concrete progress.

And going forward, we talked about the agenda ahead.  We’ll be working together even more on things like telecommunications infrastructure, making sure that it’s secure not only for our own countries but working with other countries around the world.  We’ve got two of them present today, in the case of Jamaica and Kenya, who videoed in.  We’ll be talking about how we can take down barriers to sharing information on research and development.  A whole host of other things that show the power of the United States and the European Union working together.

When we take our economies together, we are well more than 40 percent of global GDP.  When you put that together, it’s a very, very powerful force.  And I think we all emerged from these meetings convinced that this is a very positive, productive way forward for both the European Union and the United States.

Thank you.