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U.S. tech talks going ahead despite French anger

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EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis. / FRANCISCO SECO/agence france-presse

Brussels, Belgium (AFP) — The European Union (EU) said on Thursday that trade and tech talks with the United States would go ahead as planned next week, despite France’s submarine spat with Washington putting them in doubt.

A furious Paris had floated the idea of delaying the meeting of the new Trade and Technology Council in Pittsburgh on 29 September in retaliation for a pact between the US, Australia and Britain — dubbed AUKUS — that saw Canberra scrap a multi-billion-dollar sub order from France.

But Brussels announced the talks were still on a day after French leader Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden sought to defuse the tensions in a phone call.

“Strategic alliances are about shaping common approaches and also overcoming difficulties,” tweeted Valdis Dombrovskis, EU trade commissioner.

EU allies expressed solidarity with France over the row that saw Paris recall its ambassador to Washington, but numerous member states were wary of steps that could worsen ties with the Biden administration.

The EU-US tech council was agreed at a summit in June to look at issues including trying to attune their strategies on regulating big tech and defend democratic values on the Internet.

The council came at the request of the Europeans who sought concrete signs of increased transatlantic cooperation after years of tension under president Donald Trump, especially over trade matters.

An EU spokeswoman said the first meeting “will address short-term semiconductor issues” in the face of a global crunch of the key chips.

France called Australia’s decision to ditch a deal to buy French submarines in favour of US vessels a “stab in the back.”

Macron agreed in his talks with Biden to return Paris’s envoy to Washington, as the two leaders vowed to launched “in-depth consultations… for ensuring confidence.”

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