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US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo says American and EU officials must work together to align technology standards in a way that is consistent with their respective democratic values. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

At Paris summit, US and EU vow coordinated tech standards to counter China

  • Negotiators at the allies’ Trade and Technology Council sign an agreement to influence international standard-setting bodies for cutting-edge tech
  • Electric vehicle charging will be the first area of focus and is set to be a ‘game changer’, official says

After two days of intensive talks in Paris, the EU and US vowed to step up efforts to set the rules of the road for cutting-edge technology, in order to counter the rising influence of China and other “non-market economies”.

Speaking to reporters after the second meeting of the Trade and Technology Council, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the pair would “work together to align our technology standards in a way that’s consistent with our democratic values”.

“If non-market economies control international standard-setting bodies, it’s a very powerful way to block out the US and the EU. So we are going to work together to make sure we show up at the standard-setting bodies,” Raimondo said, in a thinly veiled reference to Beijing.

The West has long been concerned about losing the fight on standardisation for hi-tech products, which can be lucrative but also strategically crucial given the rapid pace of technological development.

US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo (third from right) worked with EU officials to set up a Strategic Standardisation Information mechanism in Paris on Sunday. Photo: AFP

It is an often-repeated mantra that whoever leads on advanced tech sectors like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, 5G, 6G and beyond will rule the world, and transatlantic officials see the signing of a specific agreement on standards in Paris as a first step to wresting back some control from China on this front.

A 47-page joint statement released following the forum’s conclusion is replete with language about the need to counter autocratic countries’ efforts to use technology to “implement authoritarian policies, perpetrate human rights violations and abuses, engage in other forms of repression, and undermine the security of other nations”.

Raimondo, along with US trade chief Katherine Tai and EU counterparts Valdis Dombrovskis, the trade commissioner, and competition czar Margrethe Vestager, set up a Strategic Standardisation Information mechanism on Monday, seen as the launchpad for collaboration on standards.


The first area of focus will be electric vehicle charging infrastructure, which an EU official – speaking on background – said would be the “first concrete deliverable” in the initiative.

Electric vehicle charging infrastructure, affecting companies like Tesla, will be one of the first areas addressed by the US-EU initiative. Photo: picture alliance / dpa

The allies will develop standards for the tools that are essential for the vehicles of tomorrow, with the idea being that the rest of the world will be forced to follow.

“This will take shape in the next year and will be a game changer,” the official said, adding that the EU imagines it working in the same manner as its common charger directive, which will eventually force all smartphones and small electronic devices to have the same charging port.

The agreement was one of many aspirational tenets of a long statement that was high on ambition but low on concrete action.


Its text contains pledges to discuss supply-chain resilience for vital products like semiconductors and to tackle Russian disinformation. There will be a new dialogue on forced labour, while the pair will discuss weaning the West off Chinese solar panels and rare earth magnets.

The agreement signed in Paris paves the way for weaning the West off Chinese-made products like solar panels. Photo: Bloomberg

Officials suggested that a third council meeting, to take place in the US later this year, would provide more “deliverables”, but spoke glowingly of the progress made so far, particularly on joint action around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


“If we did not have the TTC we would have had to invent it,” Vestager said, pointing to how instrumental the council had been on coordinating on sanctions and export controls.

Tai, the US trade representative, also praised the work done on Russia but suggested that the real work would be on longer-term issues, such as the economic challenge posed by China.

“Events and the disruptions that we’ve experienced have really revealed structural vulnerabilities to the way that we have been conducting our international economic policy,” Tai said, pointing to the “persistent challenge” of “China’s state-centric approach to the economy”.

US, EU trade and tech negotiators meet in Paris to tighten screws on autocrats

Bearing this in mind, the EU and US made a commitment to address perceived market distortions caused by Chinese subsidies.


Specifically, they are set to share intelligence and analysis on distortions in the medical devices sector, in which China has become a dominant player, with additional sectors to follow.

Like the electric vehicle charging work, this is seen by EU officials as a trial run to establish how two of the world’s three biggest economies can work together to counter the third on a long-standing grievance.

EU officials speaking on background said the sector had been flagged by industry as an area to monitor, while Western reliance on Chinese-made medical goods was made painfully obvious during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.


With both the EU and US developing considerable investment plans for infrastructure and technologies such as semiconductors, some have wondered whether they may spawn a subsidies race of their own.

They agreed at the TTC to not undercut each other and to keep funding plans within the rules of the World Trade Organization, a development that third parties will be watching closely.