Biden axes trade tariffs to EU in gushing speech '
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The two leaders met in Rome for the G20 meeting over the weekend for the first time since France missed out on a lucrative submarine deal at the hands of a new defence alliance between America, the US and Australia.
At the end of the meeting, in which Joe Biden recognised communications on the so-called AUKUS alliance had been “clumsy”, the White House said Mr Biden “recognises the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence that contributes positively to global and transatlantic security and is complementary to NATO”.
While in Rome, Mr Macron and President Biden agreed to explore making arms export rules more effective, addressing a long-running source of friction.
“The presidents intend to launch a US-France defence trade strategic dialogue to foster a shared view on defence market access and export issues,” the US President and President Macron said in a joint statement after talks in Rome on the sidelines of a G20 summit.
The two leaders shared warm words, and friendly body language, but Mr Macron said later that France’s trust needed to be regained by deeds, not words.
“I think what happened was, to use an English phrase, what we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace,” Mr Biden said.
“I was under the impression certain things had happened that hadn’t happened. And – but I want to make it clear: France is an extremely, extremely valued partner – extremely – and a power in and of itself.”
Mr Biden also noted the United States does not have an older and more loyal ally than France and said there is no place where the two nations cannot cooperate.
“I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not going through. I, honest to God, did not know you had not been,” Mr Biden told Mr Macron.
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Mr Macron said his meeting with Mr Biden was “important” and that it was essential to “look to the future” as his country and the United States work to mend fences.
“What really matters now is what we will do together in the coming weeks, the coming months, the coming years,” Mr Macron said.
Mr Macron later told reporters that the meeting with Mr Biden had been helpful, with a “strong” US commitment about European defence, but what happened next was important.
“Trust is like love: Declarations are good, but proof is better,” Mr Macron said.
The two governments also pledged to “identify steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of defence export authorisations,” the statement added.
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France has been seeking clarity over a set of US arms export controls known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which allow Washington to block the re-export of sensitive US components embedded in foreign weapons.
French and European defence companies have blamed ITAR for hampering their exports to third countries in the past, while US arms firms have campaigned to keep the rules flexible enough to avoid putting too tight a lid on their own arms sales.
“We reached a number of bilateral cooperation agreements, several of which are critical in my view, firstly on arms exports,” Mr Macron told reporters after meeting Mr Biden.
“Why? Because we need to clarify the ITAR rules, failing which our policies can be blocked completely.
“So we opened a process to deconflict the issue and work together.”
A spokesperson for the State Department, which oversees ITAR export controls, declined comment on diplomatic negotiations.
There have been sporadic attempts by European nations to make their weapons “ITAR-free” to bypass the rules, but defence analysts have questioned how feasible this is given the vast amount of US-made high-tech components in aerospace.
Former US officials say any changes to France’s treatment under the rules may require a treaty, a key potential hurdle.
Tensions over ITAR controls flared in 2012 when French defence group Thales hit a roadblock over the export of satellites launched by Chinese rockets.
Negotiations to sell Dassault-built Rafale fighters from France to Egypt were reported to have been delayed in 2018 because of ITAR restrictions on their missiles.
The global reach of the regulations re-emerged last year when France-based planemaker Airbus was fined for ITAR violations as part of a multinational corruption settlement.
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