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MNI (Brussels)

The EU's dispute with the U.S. over subsidies for Boeing and Airbus will provide an early test of the bloc's willingness to work with any Joe Biden administration, a former senior U.S. diplomat told MNI, adding that substantive differences on trade would persist whoever wins Tuesday's elections.

EU proposals for a Digital Services Tax would prompt pushback from Washington under Biden just as much as under Donald Trump, as could developing policy drives by Brussels for greater economic self-sufficiency, articulated in new policy slogans calling for digital sovereignty, monetary autonomy and 'farm to fork' food production, said Brussels-based US-EU trade expert Peter Chase, a former U.S. diplomat and director of the State Department's office of EU affairs.

While a change in the U.S. presidency would provide a welcome change of style for Brussels, and Biden would be more instinctively internationalist than Trump, he would come into office with a strong focus on domestic policy, Chase said.

"They (EU) would have a potential ally in DC but it's a question of how to take advantage of it," Chase said. "Biden doesn't mean sweetness and light."


An early gauge of relations would come from the EU's response to a World Trade Organization ruling allowing Brussels to impose USD4 billion in punitive tariffs on the U.S. in compensation for illegal state aid to Boeing, he said. The WTO last year said the U.S. could impose USD7.5 billion in tariffs on European goods in retaliation for aid to Airbus.

"The Europeans will have the authority to impose tariffs on the U.S. after the election. Trump will be delighted because he will be able to retaliate big time. It will be much more difficult for Biden," said Chase, who added that a Biden victory could also put more pressure on the UK to conclude a trade deal with Europe, if it wants to see a US-UK accord.

Officials in Brussels observe that U.S. presidents often become more focused on foreign policy issues during their second term and note that even a re-elected Trump may need to treat European allies better in order to deal more effectively with China.

Be he Biden or Trump, the next U.S. president is likely to seek a more collaborative approach, particularly in the technology sphere, said Aaron Cooper, Vice President of global policy at lobbying group the Software Alliance.

"All governments are in the process of working out the best ways to address these concerns, which really require global practices," Cooper said. "So even in a second Trump administration, we may see a different approach to commercial security on digital issues, which will become more nuanced as the issues mature."