EU plans two summits with US next year, aiming to forge new alliance in face of China

European Council President Charles Michel attends a virtual meeting by video, in Brussels, Belgium, 26 November 2020. [EPA-EFE/JOHANNA GERON]

The European Union has invited US President-elect Joe Biden for two summits – one virtual, and one in person – in the first half of next year to discuss “strategic” issues ranging from the COVID crisis to climate change, peace and security, an EU source has said.

The EU is seeking to forge a new alliance with the United States to bury the tensions of the Trump era and meet the challenges posed by China, the Financial Times reported  on Sunday, citing a draft plan.

The plan is laid out in a paper sent on Friday to EU ambassadors, covering five key areas of  future transatlantic cooperation, an EU source said: Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic; Enhancing economic recovery; Combatting climate change; Upholding multilateralism and shared values, and; Promoting peace and security.

The EU’s 27 national ambassadors will discuss the plan on Monday with a view to preparing a statement for the upcoming meeting of EU leaders on 10-11 December, the EU source added.

Charles Michel, the President of the European Council who chairs EU summit meetings, “will hold consultations as of next week with all EU leaders on this topic,” added the EU source who sent the information to EU-accredited journalists on Sunday evening (29 November).

Michel “has invited the US” President-elect for two summits “in the first half of 2021” – one virtual and one physical, the EU source said.

Michel’s team is also “in close contact with NATO Secretary General to see if they can arrange a common visit,” the source added.

Relations between the United States and Europe have been strained under President Donald Trump. The EU and most of the bloc’s member countries have congratulated President-elect Joe Biden although some had clearly stated their preference for Trump.

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“Mini-deals” on the menu 

“As open democratic societies and market economies, the EU and the US agree on the strategic challenge presented by China’s growing international assertiveness, even if we do not always agree on the best way to address this,” the FT cited the draft plan as saying.

Earlier in November, the EU imposed tariffs on up to $4 billion US imports in retaliation for US subsidies for Boeing but said it was hopeful of an improvement in trade ties under Biden.

EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis earlier said the European Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 27 EU member states, had made some informal contacts with the Biden team.

In an interview with EURACTIV, Dombrovskis also made clear that a deep and comprehensive trade deal with the US was “not feasible” for the time being, saying issues that emerged during previous talks would resurface.

“We saw that the negotiations were not making too much of a progress. For that reason, it’s not something we now would be actively pursuing,” Dombrovskis said, citing instead the possibility of striking “mini-deals” in specific areas of trade in goods.

Dombrovskis: Deep and comprehensive trade deal with the US 'not feasible'

European Commission executive vice-president, Valdis Dombrovskis, believes that Joe Biden’s victory will bring a fresh start to the EU-US relations. But there are limits, as he considers that it would not be feasible to try again to negotiate a deep and comprehensive trade deal like the TTIP, he told EURACTIV in an interview on Wednesday.

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