13 October 2021

The EU and US have set up a council to collaborate on trade and technology. But will it also be used to compete with and challenge China in these areas? 

Following the inaugural meeting of the TTC in Pittsburgh last month, the European Commission launched "Futurium" - a platform for stakeholders to engage with the TTC and stat up to date with the council's activities. You can view it here.

DeHavilland's Chris Martin explains.

In December 2020, the EU and US put forward a joint communication for “global change”, outlining their shared interests and values and how they wanted to work together on a new transatlantic agenda.  

Six months later, the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) was set up. It makes sense for the EU and US to want to collaborate in these areas. The frontiers around technology require regulation, and in many cases global standards will need to be set – covering AI, data flows and protection, digital markets and more.   

And when it comes to trade, there are advantages to co-operating on manufacturing, working together to combat the global semiconductor shortage, for example.  

Indeed, the TTC joint statement contained commitments to investment screening, to improving the supply of semiconductors and to “innovative and trustworthy” AI.  

Beneath the surface, there may be other agendas for both the EU and the US. It has been widely reported that the US aims to use the TTC as a place to collaborate to counter China. The EU is less keen to speak openly of such aims, but the commitment at the council’s first meeting to maintain investment screening to “protect themselves from risk arising from certain foreign investments” may as well have named China as the threat.  

The EU’s weak stance on China exists, at least in part, because the EU27 are not aligned. Member states have important trade relationships with China – it has been Germany’s largest trading partner since 2015.  

China is not exclusively mentioned in any TTC communication, but the EU is clearly looking to compete with its “systemic rival” in the establishment of global standards. The Commission’s AI Act proposal, published in April this year, is a prime example - it provides a challenge to China’s deployment of AI in applications such as its social credit system. 

The EU is offering an alternative by aiming to build trust and to facilitate investment into AI technologies and make Europe the leader in the field. No small ambition.  

Similarly, although the EU has not named names during TTC talks, it has demonstrated its ambition to tackle China’s growing influence unilaterally via the Global Gateway proposal, which is due to be published on 17 November.  

The Global Gateway will seek to offer a “value-based and transparent alternative” to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is well underway across Africa and Eurasia. DeHavilland will report on the details. 


About the author
Chris Martin
EU Policy Executive
Chris leads on the TMT (Tech, Media and Telecomms) portfolio at DeHavilland EU, where he monitors the developments on a wide range of issues relating to the digital transition to ensure his clients receive accurate information at speed. Furthermore, Chris plays a large role in the organisation of DeHavilland EU events and webinars across all sectors.

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