U.S. President Joe Biden will meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday at the White House to discuss potential sanctions against China amid concerns that Beijing is preparing to send weapons to Russia, and Europe’s frustration over Washington’s plans to subsidize American companies under the Inflation Reduction Act.
Biden and von der Leyen also will discuss U.S.-EU coordination to combat the climate crisis through investing in clean technology based on secure supply chains, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
The meeting is the latest in a flurry of high-level diplomacy with European leaders to coordinate support for Ukraine in defending itself one year after Russia’s invasion. Biden met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Washington last week. Last month, he traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, then to Warsaw to visit Polish President Andrzej Duda and leaders of the Bucharest Nine.
‘De-risk this dependency’
Amid the war on Ukraine, Europe is racing to end its reliance on Russia for fossil fuels by ramping up its domestic renewable energy production. To do so, it would need more access to critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt and rare earth metals, the majority of which are processed by China.
“China produces 98% of Europe’s supplies of rare earths,” von der Leyen said during a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Kingston, Ontario, earlier this week. “Europe needs to de-risk this dependency.”
Von der Leyen, however, has been more cautious in joining the Biden administration in warning China not to arm Moscow in its war effort. During a news conference with Scholz in Meseberg, Germany, earlier this month, she said “no evidence so far” suggested that China was doing so and that the issue of sanctions against Beijing was a “hypothetical question.”
Another key topic is the Biden administration’s plan to provide American companies with $369 billion in green subsidies and tax credits aimed at cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030 under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which the EU views as discriminatory. A special task force was set up in October to address these concerns and avoid a trans-Atlantic subsidy race.
Biden and von der Leyen are expected to begin negotiations to allow the EU to have a status similar to that of a free trade partner so that it may be exempt from an Inflation Reduction Act clause that requires a certain percentage of minerals used in manufacturing batteries to be domestically produced or come from a free trade partner.
The EU and Canada have been working toward establishing a “green alliance” to grow respective economies that are “climate-neutral, circular and resource-efficient.” Biden is expected to coordinate on the effort in his visit to Canada later this month.