Von der Leyen: EU seeks ‘new transatlantic agenda’ with Biden

Ursula von der Leyen on 10 November 2020. [Europe by Satellite]

The United States and European Union need to forge a new transatlantic alliance in areas such as climate change and the digital economy under president-elect Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday (10 November).

Europe, she said, should take the initiative, with an offer to work with the next US administration, stressing it would not mean a return to the agenda of five years ago.

“Our alliance is based on shared values and history. On a common belief in working together to build a stronger, more peaceful and more prosperous world,” von der Leyen said in a speech to EU ambassadors around the world.

“These goals will always endure. But in a changing global landscape, I believe it is time for a new transatlantic agenda fit for today’s world.”

She congratulated Biden and US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory but did not mention outgoing President Donald Trump, who has not conceded to his opponent.

An EU official said the bloc’s 27 national leaders would soon discuss “re-energizing the trans-Atlantic relations” and “reinforcing political dialogue” with Biden, especially on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, soothing trade tensions, defending multi-party institutions often assaulted by Trump, as well as working hand in hand on international security.

Council President Charles Michel will invite Biden to a video teleconference call and then a summit in the bloc’s political hub Brussels, which is also home to the headquarters of NATO. Asked about the timing, a Council official could not clarify if the call would be before or after Biden’s inauguration.

Many European leaders watched with shock as Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement, slapped tariffs on EU goods and undermined multilateral bodies that America has backed for decades.

Von der Leyen said the EU was looking forward to the United States rejoining the Paris agreement, which Biden has said he will do.

The European Commission president said Europe would push for ambitious commitments at next year’s international meetings on climate change and biodiversity, adding that the United States was “well placed to support us”.

It is also time to reverse the trend of weakening multilateral organisations, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, with reform where appropriate, she said.

Von der Leyen urged the United States to work with Europe to set global rules for the digital economy, covering illegal hate speech and propaganda, fair competition and data protection.

One thorny area could be taxation of digital services companies. Von der Leyen said she hoped for a global consensus.

G20 finance ministers last month extended until mid-2021 negotiations to update cross-border tax rules after talks ground to a halt amid the COVID-19 pandemic and US reluctance.

Mid-2021 had to be an absolute deadline, von der Leyen said, adding that Europe would act if there was no agreement by then.

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