Belgium accuses the United States of “aggressive” pressure to attract European companies

Belgium’s prime minister has accused the United States of waging an “aggressive” campaign to lure European companies to the other side of the Atlantic by promising support under the new green subsidies law.

Alexandre de Croo said at a meeting in the European Parliament on Tuesday that the United States is seeking to undermine industry in the European Union through the Inflation Reduction Act, a €369 billion subsidy scheme passed in August.

“The United States, our partner…they call our industry. And they tell them why invest in Europe? You should come to the United States,” he said at a seminar for his centrist political group Renew, describing German companies and Belgian companies in a very aggressive way – don’t invest in Europe, we have something better.”

He later told the Financial Times that the Americans were “using the IRA in a very aggressive way to attract investment. You can say it’s fair game, but then you shouldn’t say, ‘Oh, we’ve forgotten the impact of that on Europe’.”

“I mean, I think they were very aware of the impact you could have.”

De Croo said Belgian chemical and steel companies had been contacted. He said he did not know whether the federal government, US states or private investment advisors made the calls.

But an EU official said the issue had been raised by other leaders as well, and considered it to be a coordinated campaign.

Many subsidies in an IRA are only available to companies operating or manufacturing in the United States. The Biden administration has said it will try to find ways for European companies to reach each other through the way it implements the legislation.

An EU-US task force has met several times and so far has made modest progress: an EV tax credit of €7,500 will be provided for vehicles made in the EU sold under commercial leases, although not directly to consumers.

De Croo said the only response to the “unfair” US law is to provide similar subsidies.

Ilham Kadri, CEO of Solvay, the Belgian chemical company, called at the same event a “European IRA”.

De Croo also accused Washington of “bullying” the Netherlands into banning the export of advanced silicon wafer manufacturing equipment to China. The United States is in talks with the Dutch, Japanese, and other machine-producing countries that make the most advanced chips. “The interests of the United States are not always the interests of the European Union,” he said at the meeting.

He said the Netherlands was “isolated” but should work with Brussels to resist the US demand.

“Some of our partners don’t like the EU? Why don’t they like the EU? Because it’s easy to bully a small country. It’s much more difficult to bully a group of 27 people. Our unity is our strength.”

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