The confrontation with Russia will be at the centre of the next high-level meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC), according to the draft conclusions obtained by EURACTIV.
European Commission Executive Vice Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis will meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in Paris-Saclay on Monday (16 May) for the second meeting of the transatlantic platform.
Last September, the TTC was launched to establish a permanent platform for Brussels and Washington to converge on key policy topics related to global trade and emerging technologies. However, according to the draft conclusions, the main focus of the upcoming meeting will be condemning Russia.
“The world has changed dramatically since the first Trade and Technology Council meeting in Pittsburgh on 29 September 2021. The European Union and the United States strongly condemn Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine,” the second point of the joint statement reads.
According to two sources informed on the matter, the focus on Russia is to concentrate on what brings the blocs together. The discussions on the EU’s recently-agreed Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act and on the cloud were taken off the table.
The draft also includes the conclusions for the Working Groups, which have varying degrees of progress.
The document refers to the recently-signed Declaration for the Future of the Internet, which committed the EU, US and thirty other countries to a shared vision of digital technologies, notably to counter China’s growing influence in standardisation bodies.
However, cooperation on technical standards has been slow in the context of the TTC. The exchange of information in this area is only just starting with the set up of an EU-US Strategic Standardisation Information (SSI) mechanism.
“We are committed to exchange information and explore opportunities for collaboration in our research and development agendas, notably for Artificial Intelligence (AI), telecommunication technologies beyond 5G and 6G, and quantum computing. Given that 6G will be a critical global infrastructure, common approaches towards 6G international standards are particularly relevant,” the text reads.
Misuse of technology
One of the areas that have progressed the most from the start of the TTC is the misuse of technologies for coercion, surveillance and cyber threats. Here, the focus has been on addressing Russia’s manipulation of information, referencing government-imposed internet shutdowns.
Online platforms are also pointed at as vehicles for spreading and amplifying illegal and harmful conduct, echoing a similar statement from the future of the internet declaration.
The conclusions announce the establishment of a Cooperation Protocol on Information Integrity in crises, intended to coordinate risk management related to data and platform governance risks in times of crisis, starting with the Russian aggression on Ukraine.
The document also stressed a commitment to developing analytical tools to identify information manipulations from foreign powers and tackle Russian disinformation campaigns in third countries.
“We are acutely aware that trade-in technologies can be pivotal to the ability of autocratic countries to implement authoritarian policies, perpetrate human rights violations and abuses, engage in other forms of repression, and undermine the security of other nations,” the document added.
To address this problem, the transatlantic partners made good progress in terms of export control. Initially, these discussions were blocked by resistance from Central and Eastern Europe countries that are open to Chinese investments, but the war in Ukraine made this topic jump to the top of the agenda.
The TTC has provided a platform for ‘unprecedented coordination’ in export controls by supporting information exchange on dual-use technology for the two partners.
Investment screening and high-risk vendors
The Russian aggression against Ukraine has also highlighted the importance of having trusted technology providers for the two blocs. A notorious case was the one of Kaspersky, the Russian anti-virus software company that was added to a ‘watch list’ in several Western countries.
Although the conclusions include a joint statement on the importance of addressing security risks from high-risk vendors and fostering diversification of suppliers, progress on investment screening cooperation on sensitive technologies remains limited.
Perhaps to remedy that, the conclusions announced a dedicated task force for the public financing, including by international financial institutions, of secure connectivity in third countries, aimed at promoting the use of trusted suppliers.
Supply chain resiliency is another topic that accelerated the Ukrainian crisis, particularly neodymium, a rare earth magnet, solar panel supply chains and semiconductors.
The EU and US have announced legislation to enhance their autonomy in terms of chips. At the same time, the two partners restated their intention to cooperate on early warnings of semiconductor shortages and avoid a subsidy race.
The summit in France is also set to announce the set-up of a sub-group dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, notably to develop “a joint roadmap on evaluation and measurement tools for trustworthy AI and risk management and a common project on privacy-enhancing technologies.”
A third TTC meeting is planned for December in the United States.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]