German Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Monday said there was a chance that de facto free-trade status could be reached between Europe and the United States in the area of critical minerals under the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Habeck is currently in Washington to discuss the IRA and its implications for Europe with US officials and seek equal treatment, comparable to Mexico and Canada, in some areas in which European leaders fear discrimination.
“I can imagine that there will be agreements in certain sectors that have the same effect as equal treatment. And then I would be satisfied. One should not be picky about it,” Habeck told Reuters.
“If it is not a free trade agreement, but a regulatory framework where the same goods are valued equally in the same market, then what we actually need has been achieved.”
Habeck singled out critical minerals, which are needed for solar panels, batteries and semiconductors, as one area where such an agreement could be struck to reduce dependence on China, which owns most of the market.
Europe and the United States should pool resources in this field instead of competing, Habeck said.
Habeck and French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire are due to meet US counterparts on Tuesday to discuss the matter and soften any negative impact the IRA could have on Europe’s industry.
Habeck said that there was a certain risk of escalating trade tensions between the United States and China but that he hoped a constructive solution could be found.
Turning to domestic politics, Habeck also responded to reports in German media that struggling airport Frankfurt-Hahn could be bought by a Russian investor, saying his ministry, which has the power to block takeovers by foreign firms, had launched a routine review of the process.
(By Christian Kraemer and Christoph Steitz; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates)