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US proves too sour for European tastes: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2023-10-22 19:22
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The proposed "Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminum" did not make it through the European Union-United States summit in Washington.

The proposed document was aimed at forming a "green steel club" that excludes "nonmarket" economies, mainly China, with higher tariffs. Had it sailed through the summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and EU leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, it would have been a substantial boost to the transatlantic alliance's, particularly Washington's, attempts to further align their China policies.

But it didn't. Because, although the arrangement was designed as a solution to the EU-US battle over steel and aluminum, the two sides failed to reach an agreement on ending their own dispute, as the US was unwilling to make concessions to its EU partners.

That the Friday statement of the summit devoted five paragraphs to China does reveal the two parties' greater concern about China, considering their last summit statement in 2021 had only one paragraph on China. That it did not come with the degree of toughness the White House wanted exposes a gap across the Atlantic when it comes to their common concerns.

The Biden administration had worked hard to make sure its united front-building against China, which already has its key allies in the Asia-Pacific onboard, would include an equally steadfast European Union, so the US and its European allies would speak to China with one voice.

There are complex reasons why it was so difficult for the two sides to produce the kind of coordinated response Washington aspired to. For one thing, Washington's reckless politicization of economic and trade issues is a concern to its European partners. Many of its moves, including but not limited to those on steel and aluminum, allegedly targeting "nonmarket" actors, are themselves against market rules. The EU as a self-proclaimed defender of free trade is certainly aware of the damaging potential of what are essentially manifestations of the US' self-centeredness.

Washington's habitual disregard of European interests while pursuing its own goals has naturally irked the Europeans. Although the EU and its member countries have voiced serious concerns about the US Inflation Reduction Act, there is no sign that Washington is willing to heed their complaints and change course. Indeed, not only has the US violated World Trade Organization rules with that act, but it has slapped the EU in the face too. Washington is now turning a blind eye to EU interests by pressing the latter to confront China following its own example, from trade restrictions to investment controls.

"The US cannot have it both ways: either we stick to a rules-based international trade order, then those rules must also apply to the US; or the US wants to reserve the right to do to allies whatever they please, then they should drop the propaganda line about the rules-based order," a member of the European Parliament was quoted as saying.

But of course, eating the cake and having it too is exactly what the US expects.

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