Biden looks to ‘revitalise’ ties at EU video summit

File photo. US President Joe Biden makes a foreign policy speech at the State Department in Washington, DC, USA, 4 February 2021. [Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/EFE]

President Joe Biden will join the European Union summit by video link on Thursday (25 March), as the new US leader looks to “revitalise” ties that frayed under predecessor Donald Trump.

“Time to rebuild our transatlantic alliance,” declared European Council president and summit host Charles Michel.

The White House said Biden would seek “to revitalise US-EU relations, work together to combat the pandemic and address climate change, and deepen the world’s largest trade and investment relationship”.

“He will also discuss shared foreign policy interests, including China and Russia,” it added.

An EU spokesman said Biden’s first direct talks with all 27 leaders together were planned for 8:45pm (1945 GMT).

The EU leaders are due to meet on Thursday and Friday for their regular European Council summit, held by video conference as a coronavirus safety measure.

They are due to discuss their troubled rollout of Covid vaccines on Thursday, before moving on to foreign policy and security crises.

But the meeting also comes as Brussels and Washington try to repair ties that frayed under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who regularly clashed with Brussels and EU capitals over tax, trade and defence spending.

‘Alliance is back’

Washington’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is in Brussels for talks at NATO headquarters and will meet European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday.

Biden’s first physical visit to Europe as president is expected to be for the G7 summit in Cornwall, England on 11 to 13 June, and he has been invited to attend a NATO summit at around the same time.

Biden last month declared that the “transatlantic alliance is back” in a powerful speech in which he insisted the US was “determined to reengage with Europe”.

Biden declares America, transatlantic alliance 'back'

President Joe Biden declared the “transatlantic alliance is back” Friday (19 February) in a powerful speech seeking to reestablish the United States as leader of the West against what he called a global assault on democracy.

The US is hoping to forge a common front of democracies against the rising might of authoritarian powers led by China and is keen to enlist the EU.

The two sides took a first step towards joint action against Beijing by unveiling synchronised sanctions on Monday over the crackdown on the Uighurs in China.

West hits China with coordinated sanction over Xinjiang abuses

The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials on Monday (22 March) for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the first such coordinated Western action against Beijing under new US President Joe Biden.

But Brussels irritated Biden’s team by agreeing an investment deal with Beijing weeks before he took office.

EU clears way for China investment pact

EU member states gave political backing to Brussels’ planned investment pact with China on Monday (28 December), clearing the way for a deal between the world’s biggest economic blocs.

Transatlantic conflict

EU leaders have welcomed Washington’s pledge to work together despite some arguing the bloc needs to become more independent after Trump’s isolationist policies and abrasive treatment rattled allies.

Washington and Brussels this month agreed to suspend tariffs imposed during Trump’s time over a trade dispute involving Boeing and Airbus.

The 16-year-old transatlantic conflict over government aid to the firms saw Brussels and Washington each impose punitive tariffs, including US duties on a record $7.5 billion in European goods.

Washington had imposed tariffs on European products like wine, cheese and olive oil, and 15-percent tariffs on Airbus.

And the EU levied additional customs duties on $4 billion worth of American products including Boeing planes and farm produce such as wheat and tobacco, plus alcoholic spirits and chocolate.

The US and EU are now looking to work together on a wide-range of issues including tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change after Biden rejoined the 2016 Paris accord.

Trump did not hold talks with all EU leaders together, but both previous presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush met with the entire bloc.

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