The EU has urged the US to join forces in countering Chinese attempts to define the technologies of the future, saying a transatlantic alliance is needed to influence global standards for sectors such as telecoms and the internet of things.
As part of a progress report into EU-US co-operation on trade, Brussels said that the “strategic case” for the two economies to work together on setting technical standards “has never been greater” given the competing models being advanced by Beijing.
“These new regulatory models are a cause of common concern given the important role played by the [Chinese] state in deploying market-distorting practices to build domestic champions in key strategic sectors,” the commission, the EU’s executive branch, said.
The comments reflect EU concerns that Chinese state-backed companies and the government in Beijing have sought to extend their influence in bodies such as the International Telecommunication Union and the International Organisation for Standardisation, which set technical criteria for new products and technologies.
Both the EU and the US fear that China — having forced foreign companies active on its territory to share their technology for years — is seeking to dominate intellectual property in cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence and 5G mobile networks.
These fears have been stoked by leading Chinese telecoms company Huawei’s dominance of key 5G technology. US president Donald Trump has sought to drum up international opposition to Huawei, restricting US companies’ ability to do business with it before relaxing the curbs.
Areas where EU-US co-operation appears promising, according to the report, include robotics, 3D printing, machinery for the oil and gas industry and self-driving cars. Vera Jourova, the EU’s justice commissioner, said in April that EU-US co-operation would mean “our voice would be heard around the world . . . But, if we will become rivals and promote conflicting models, none of us will win”.
The report reviews the state of EU-US trade ties one year after a deal between Mr Trump and commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to improve co-operation. The deal persuaded Mr Trump to temporarily back away from threats to start a trade war with the EU.
The centrepiece of that agreement was a plan to strike a zero tariff deal on industrial goods, but talks have failed to get off the ground. In Brussels, there are renewed fears that Mr Trump may lash out at the EU as he gears up for his 2020 re-election campaign.
The commission report emphasises the progress the EU has made to fulfil comments to buy more US soyabeans and liquefied natural gas. Asked whether Brussels hoped this update would dissuade the US from imposing punitive measures against the EU, a spokeswoman for the commission said that it reflected the EU’s “commitment to deliver on what was agreed”.