More stories

  • in

    Biden Plans Sanctions on Russian Lawmakers as He Heads to Europe

    A chief goal of the meetings this week is to show that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will not lead to sniping and disagreement among the United States and its allies.WASHINGTON — President Biden will announce sanctions this week on hundreds of members of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, according to a White House official familiar with the announcement, as the United States and its allies reach for even stronger measures to punish President Vladimir V. Putin for his monthlong invasion of Ukraine.The announcement is scheduled to be made during a series of global summits in Europe on Thursday, when Mr. Biden will press Western leaders for even more aggressive economic actions against Russia as its forces continue to rain destruction on cities in Ukraine.In Brussels on Thursday, Mr. Biden and other leaders will announce a “next phase” of military assistance to Ukraine, new plans to expand and enforce economic sanctions, and an effort to further bolster NATO defenses along the border with Russia, Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said on Tuesday.“The president is traveling to Europe to ensure we stay united, to cement our collective resolve, to send a powerful message that we are prepared and committed to this for as long as it takes,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters.Officials declined to be specific about the announcements, saying the president will wrap up the details of new sanctions and other steps during his deliberations in Brussels. But Mr. Biden faces a steep challenge as he works to confront Mr. Putin’s war, which Mr. Sullivan said “will not end easily or rapidly.”The sanctions on Russian lawmakers, which were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, will affect hundreds of members of the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, according to the official, who requested anonymity to discuss diplomatic deliberations that have not yet been publicly acknowledged.Earlier this month, the United States announced financial sanctions on 12 members of the Duma. The announcement on Thursday will go far beyond those sanctions in what one senior official called a “very sweeping” action. Another official said details of the sanctions were still being finalized.The NATO alliance has already pushed the limits of economic sanctions imposed by European countries, which are dependent on Russian energy. And the alliance has largely exhausted most of its military options — short of a direct confrontation with Russia, which Mr. Biden has said could result in World War III.That leaves the president and his counterparts with a relatively short list of announcements they can deliver on Thursday after three back-to-back, closed-door meetings. Mr. Sullivan said there will be “new designations, new targets” for sanctions inside Russia. And he said the United States would make new announcements about efforts to help European nations wean themselves off Russian energy.Still, the chief goal of the summits — which have come together in just a week’s time through diplomats in dozens of countries — may be a further public declaration that Mr. Putin’s invasion will not lead to sniping and disagreement among the allies.Despite Russia’s intention to “divide and weaken the West,” Mr. Sullivan said, the allies in Europe and elsewhere have remained “more united, more determined and more purposeful than at any point in recent memory.”A damaged residential building in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday.Ivor Prickett for The New York TimesSo far, that unity has done little to limit the violence in Ukraine. The United States and Europe have already imposed the broadest array of economic sanctions ever on a country of Russia’s size and wealth, and there have been early signs that loopholes have blunted some of the bite that the sanctions on Russia’s central bank and major financial institutions were intended to have on its economy.Despite speculation that Russia might default on its sovereign debt last week, it was able to make interest payments on $117 million due on two bonds denominated in U.S. dollars. And after initially plunging to record lows this month, the ruble has since stabilized.Russia was able to avert default for now because of an exception built into the sanctions that allowed it to continue making payments in dollars through May 25. That loophole protects foreign investors and gives Russia more time to devastate Ukraine without feeling the full wrath of the sanctions.Meanwhile, although about half of Russia’s $640 billion in foreign reserves is frozen, it has been able to rebuild that by continuing to sell energy to Europe and other places.“The fact that Russia is generating a large trade and current account surplus because of energy exports means that Russia is generating a constant hard currency flow in euros and dollars,” said Robin Brooks, the chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. “If you’re looking at sanctions evasion or the effectiveness of sanctions, this was always a major loophole.”The president is scheduled to depart Washington on Wednesday morning before summits on Thursday with NATO, the Group of 7 nations and the European Council, a meeting of all 27 leaders of European Union countries. On Friday, Mr. Biden will head to Poland, where he will discuss the Ukrainian refugees who have flooded into the country since the start of the war. He will also visit with American troops stationed in Poland as part of NATO forces.Mr. Biden is expected to meet with President Andrzej Duda of Poland on Saturday before returning to the White House later that day.White House officials said a key part of the announcements in Brussels would be new enforcement measures aimed at making sure Russia is not able to evade the intended impact of sanctions.“That announcement will focus not just on adding new sanctions,” Mr. Sullivan said, “but on ensuring that there is a joint effort to crack down on evasion on sanctions-busting, on any attempt by any country to help Russia basically undermine, weaken or get around the sanctions.”He added later, “So stay tuned for that.”Sanctions experts have suggested that Western allies could allow Russian energy exports to continue but insist that payments be held in escrow accounts until Mr. Putin halts the invasion. That would borrow from the playbook the United States used with Iran, when it allowed some oil exports but required the revenue from those transactions to be held in accounts that could be used only to finance bilateral trade.Russia-Ukraine War: Key DevelopmentsCard 1 of 3A new diplomatic push. More

  • in

    Exports to Russia Blocked by U.S. and Its Allies

    To try to halt the war in Ukraine, the U.S. and its allies have imposed the most sweeping export controls seen in decades on Russia. Now they have to enforce them.WASHINGTON — The United States, in partnership with its allies, has hit Russia with some of the most sweeping export restrictions ever imposed, barring companies across the world from sending advanced technology in order to penalize President Vladimir V. Putin for his invasion of Ukraine.The restrictions are aimed at cutting off the flow of semiconductors, aircraft components and other technologies that are crucial to Russia’s defense, maritime and aerospace industries, in a bid to cripple Mr. Putin’s ability to wage war. But the extent to which the measures hinder Russia’s abilities will depend on whether companies around the globe follow the rules.Enforcing the new restrictions poses a significant challenge as governments try to police thousands of companies. But the task could be made easier because the United States is acting in concert with so many other countries.The European Union, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and South Korea have joined the United States in imposing their own restrictions. And governments including Singapore and Taiwan, a major global producer of semiconductors, have indicated they will support the rules.“Because we have the full cooperation and alignment with so many countries, it makes enforcement a lot easier,” Gina Raimondo, the U.S. secretary of commerce, said in an interview. “Every country is going to be doing enforcement.”“That’s part of the power, if you will, of having so much collaboration,” she added.Officials from the Commerce Department, which is in charge of enforcing the U.S. rules, have already begun digging through shipping containers and detaining electronics, aircraft parts and other goods that are destined for Russia. On March 2, federal agents detained two speedboats at the Port of Charleston valued at $150,000 that were being exported to Russia, according to senior U.S. officials.To look for any potential violators, federal agents will be combing through tips from industry sources and working with Customs and Border Protection to find anomalies in export data that might point to shipments to Russia. They are also reaching out to known exporters to Russia to get them on board with the new restrictions, speaking to about 20 or 30 companies a day, U.S. officials said.Their efforts extend beyond U.S. borders. On March 3, Commerce Department officials spoke to a gathering of 300 businesspeople in Beijing about how to comply with the new restrictions. U.S. officials have also been coordinating with other governments to ensure that they are taking a tough stance on enforcement, senior U.S. officials said.Emily Kilcrease, director of the Energy, Economics and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said that the level of allied cooperation in forging the export controls was “completely unprecedented,” and that international coordination would have an important upside.“The allied countries will be active partners in enforcement efforts, rather than the United States attempting to enforce its own unilateral rules extraterritorially,” she said.It remains to be seen how effective the rules are in degrading Russia’s military capability or dissuading its aggression against Ukraine. But in their initial form, the broad scope of the measures looks like a victory for the multilateralism that President Biden promised to restore.Mr. Biden entered office pledging to mend ties with Europe and other allies that had been alienated by former President Donald J. Trump’s “America first” approach. A key part of the argument was that the United States could exert more pressure on countries like China when it was not acting alone.That approach has been particularly important for export controls, which experts argue can do more harm than good when imposed by only one country — a criticism that was sometimes leveled at the export controls the Trump administration issued on China.“Because we have the full cooperation and alignment with so many countries, it makes enforcement a lot easier,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.Doug Mills/The New York TimesThe Russian invasion of Ukraine has unified Western governments like few issues before. But even with countries eager to penalize Russia, coordinating restrictions on a vast array of complex technologies among more than 30 governments was not simple. The Commerce Department held more than 50 discussions with officials from other countries between the end of January and Feb. 24, when the controls were announced, as they hashed out the details, senior U.S. officials said.Much of that effort fell to Matthew S. Borman, a three-decade employee of the Commerce Department, who in late January began near-daily conversations with the European Commission and other countries.In mid-February, Mr. Borman and a senior aerospace engineer flew to Brussels for meetings with Peter Sandler, the European director general of trade, and other staff. As a “freedom convoy” protesting coronavirus restrictions attempted to roll into Brussels, they worked from early in the morning until late in the night amid reams of paper and spreadsheets of complex technological descriptions.Each country had its own byzantine regulations, and its own interests, to consider. The European Commission had to consult the European Union’s 27 member countries, especially tech powers like Germany, France, the Netherlands and Finland, on which products could be cut off. Officials debated whether to crack down on the Russian oil industry, at a time of soaring gas prices and inflation.As Russia’s neighbors, the Europeans wanted to ensure that Russia still had access to certain goods for public safety, like nuclear reactor components to avoid a Chernobyl-style meltdown. At least one country insisted that auto exports to Russia should continue, a senior administration official said.The breakthrough came when American officials offered a compromise. The Biden administration planned to issue a rule that would bar companies anywhere around the world from exporting certain products to Russia if they were made using American technology. But those measures would not apply in countries that joined the United States and Europe in issuing their own technological restrictions on Russia.In an interview, Mr. Borman said that American allies had historically been concerned with the extraterritorial reach of U.S. export controls, and that the exclusions for countries that imposed their own rules “was really the key piece.”The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6Rising concerns. More

  • in

    Russian Oil Finds Few Buyers Even at Deep Discounts

    Some European buyers, shippers, banks and insurers have grown leery of doing business with the country in recent days.HOUSTON — The United States and the European Union have been unwilling to put sanctions on Russian energy exports in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. But some oil traders appear to have concluded that buying oil from Russia is just not worth the trouble.One of the three top oil producers in the world, after the United States and Saudi Arabia, Russia provides roughly 10 percent of the global supply. But in recent days traders and European refineries have greatly reduced their purchases of Russian oil. Some have stopped altogether.Buyers are pulling back because they or the shipping companies, banks and insurance companies they use are worried about running afoul of Western sanctions in place now or those that might come later, energy experts said. Others are worried that shipments could be hit by missiles, and some just don’t want to risk being seen as bankrolling the government of President Vladimir V. Putin.Russian exporters have been offering the country’s highest-quality oil at a discount of up to $20 a barrel in recent days but have found few buyers, analysts said. Buyers, in Europe in particular, have been switching to Middle Eastern oil, a decision that has helped drive the global oil price above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014.“The enablers of oil exports — the banks, insurance companies, tanker companies and even multinational oil companies — have enacted what amounts to a de facto ban,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service. Mr. Kloza said it could take weeks before it was clear how significantly Russia’s oil exports had fallen and whether the drop would be sustained, but “clearly the Russian contribution to world oil supply has been constricted.”On Tuesday, the International Energy Agency said its members, which include the United States and more than a dozen European nations, had agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil from their strategic reserves. The announcement had little impact on global oil prices, probably because the amount was modest, amounting to roughly three days of consumption by the United States. The White House and Energy Department signaled that more oil could be released later by describing the I.E.A. agreement as an “initial release.”Much of Russia’s oil is shipped out of Black Sea ports for use in Europe. Some shipping companies carrying oil and commercial goods are afraid that their vessels will be fired on. Congestion in sea lanes is interrupting the shipping of not only oil but also food. On Friday, an unidentified missile hit a Moldovan-flagged tanker carrying oil and diesel.“Russia’s flagship Urals blend was one of the first to break through the $100-per-barrel mark this year,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil market analyst at Rystad Energy, a research and consulting firm. “But the country’s incursion into Ukraine has now made it one of the most toxic barrels on the market.”As European refiners buy more oil from places like Saudi Arabia, Russian companies are increasingly trying to sell their crude to refineries in China and other Asian countries by offering them discounts.Most of Russia’s roughly five million barrels of daily oil exports go to Europe. About 700,000 barrels a day are consumed in the United States, roughly 4 percent of the U.S. market.Several Scandinavian refiners, including Neste Oyj of Finland and Preem of Sweden, have said they halted purchases of Russian oil.“Due to the current situation and uncertainty in the market, Neste has mostly replaced Russian crude oil with other crudes, such as North Sea oil,” said Theodore Rolfvondenbaumen, a Neste spokesman. As the company watches future sanctions and “potential countersanctions,” he said, it is preparing “for various options in procurement, production and logistics.”Energy experts say the international oil trade could be rejiggered in ways that are similar to what happened in 1956 when Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt and closed the Suez Canal. For a time, oil tankers were rerouted around Africa. Similarly, over the next few months Russian oil once shipped to Europe could go to China.Russia’s Attack on Ukraine and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6A rising concern. More

  • in

    Before Ukraine Invasion, Russia and China Cemented Economic Ties

    Facing a wary United States and worried about depending on imports by sea, China is buying more energy and food from its northern neighbor.BEIJING — As Russia wreaks havoc in Ukraine, Moscow has a powerful economic ally to help it resist Western sanctions: China.Chinese purchases of oil from Russia in December surpassed its purchases from Saudi Arabia. Six days before the military campaign began, Russia announced a yearslong deal to sell 100 million tons of coal to China — a contract worth more than $20 billion. And hours before Russia began bombing Ukraine, China agreed to buy Russian wheat despite concerns about plant diseases.In a throwback to the 1950s, when Mao Zedong worked closely with Joseph Stalin and then Nikita Khrushchev, China is again drawing close to Russia. As the United States and the European Union have become wary of China, Beijing’s leaders have decided that their best geopolitical prospects lie in marrying their vast industrial might with Russia’s formidable natural resources.Recent food and energy deals are just the latest signals of China’s economic alignment with Russia.“What happened up to now is only a beginning for both the Russian expansionism by force and the Chinese economic and financial support to Russia,” Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said in a text message. “This does not mean that China directly supports in any degree that expansionism — this only means that Beijing strongly feels the necessity to maintain and boost strategic partnership with Moscow.”The United States and the European Union are hoping that sanctions force Russia to reconsider its policies. But Wang Wenbin, the Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesman, said at a briefing on Friday that China opposed the use of sanctions.“Sanctions are never an effective way to solve the problems,” he said. “I hope relevant parties will still try to solve the problem through dialogue and consultation.”At the same time, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has imposed an awkward diplomatic quandary on China by violating the principle of national sovereignty that the Chinese leaders regard as sacrosanct. While President Xi Jinping of China has not criticized Russia publicly, he could use his country’s economic relationship with its northern neighbor as leverage to persuade the Russians to resolve the crisis quickly.Mr. Xi and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia spoke by phone on Friday. An official Chinese statement said afterward that Mr. Xi had expressed support for Russia in negotiating an agreement with Ukraine — a stance that Mr. Putin has also favored, provided that Ukraine accepts his terms.Until now, much of China’s energy and food imports came across seas patrolled by the U.S. or Indian navies. As China’s leaders have focused lately on the possibility of conflict, with military spending last year growing four times as fast as other government spending, they have emphasized greater reliance on Russia for crucial supplies.China and Russia share a nearly 2,700-mile border, and in recent years China has become Russia’s largest source of imports and the biggest destination for its exports.“Given the geopolitical tensions, Russia is a very natural geopolitical partner,” said Andy Mok, a senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing.Initial Western sanctions on Russia have focused on limiting technology exports and imposing financial penalties. For now, U.S. officials have avoided targeting consumer goods, agricultural products and energy, to try to avoid harming ordinary people and further fueling inflation.China is the world’s dominant manufacturer of electronics, machinery and other manufactured goods, and has been supplying them to Russia in exchange for food and energy.A train carrying coal in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in 2020. China’s imports of Russian coal have more than doubled in the past three years.Maxim Babenko for The New York TimesThe new cornerstone of relations between China and Russia is the Sino-Russian nonaggression pact concluded in Beijing on Feb. 4. Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin reached the deal hours before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics and issued a statement saying the countries’ friendship “has no bounds.”The pact freed Mr. Putin to move troops and military equipment from Russia’s border with China to its border with Ukraine while ushering in closer economic cooperation.“The joint statement is strong and has lasting consequences for the new world order,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a research professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.The Chinese and Russian governments share many values, particularly their antipathy to sanctions the West imposes on human-rights grounds. “The two sides firmly believe that defending democracy and human rights should not be used as a tool to exert pressure on other countries,” their pact on Feb. 4 said.When the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014, China helped Russia evade them.It is not clear if China will help Russia evade sanctions put in place this week. On Tuesday, the Biden administration added to previous measures by announcing sanctions against Russia’s two largest financial institutions and sweeping restrictions on advanced technologies that can be exported to Russia. The technological curbs, when taken in concert with allies, would block roughly a fifth of Russian imports, the administration said.Chinese companies that circumvent those rules could face escalating punishment by the United States, including criminal and civil penalties, said Martin Chorzempa, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Those businesses could also be cut off from American technology and the financial system.ZTE and Huawei, two Chinese firms that were barred from receiving American technological exports, attracted the attention of the U.S. government in part for evading sanctions on Iran.“The interesting question is: Is China going to comply with this?” Mr. Chorzempa said. China also has a law designed to penalize companies for following extraterritorial sanctions by countries like the United States, he said, all factors that “could put companies in a real bind.”“If they don’t comply with the U.S., they’re in trouble with the U.S., but if they don’t comply with China, they could also face penalties in China,” he said.Of course, collecting fines from companies that are unwilling to pay and monitoring whether businesses comply with the rules could be difficult, Mr. Chorzempa added. “It’s already proving difficult to monitor the things that are already controlled, and if you expand that list, that’s going to be a real challenge to verify what’s going to Russia,” he said.Russia’s Attack on Ukraine and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6A rising concern. More

  • in

    Russia’s Moves in Ukraine Unsettle Energy Companies and Prices

    Oil and gas prices are up, and Western energy giants with operations and investments in Russia could find it harder to keep doing business there.Russia’s recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine could threaten important investments of Western oil giants and further drive up global energy prices in the next few weeks.Since the closing days of the Cold War, Russia’s energy-based economy has become entwined with Europe’s. European energy companies like BP, TotalEnergies and Shell have major operations and investments in Russia. Though expansion of those holdings was largely halted after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, they remain important profit centers and could now be at risk.Seeking to isolate President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, President Biden and the European Union imposed new sanctions on the Russian government and the country’s political and business elite on Tuesday. The measures do not directly target the energy industry. That’s why oil and gas prices settled only modestly higher on Tuesday afternoon in New York.But analysts said the energy industry could still be hurt if the crisis dragged on, particularly if Mr. Putin decided to send troops into the rest of Ukraine or sought to take control of the capital, Kyiv. Such aggressive action would most likely force Mr. Biden and other Western leaders to ratchet up their response.European leaders are already taking aim at some Russian energy exports. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday that Germany would halt certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is supposed to deliver Russian gas. The decision will not have an immediate impact on European energy supplies because the pipeline is not yet operating. But Russian gas shipments through Ukraine could be halted, especially if Mr. Putin’s troops push farther into Ukraine or if he cuts off gas to Europe in retaliation for Western sanctions.Russia supplies one out of every 10 barrels of oil used around the world. After Western officials said Russian troops had entered eastern Ukrainian regions held by separatists, oil prices quickly jumped early Tuesday to nearly $100 a barrel, their highest level in more than seven years, before moderating.Energy experts say oil prices could easily rise another $20 a barrel if Mr. Putin seeks to occupy more or all of Ukraine. Such an outcome would also cause huge problems for Western oil companies that do business in Russia.“In that environment, the legal and reputational risk faced by Western energy companies operating in Russia will rise sharply,” said Robert McNally, who was an energy adviser to President George W. Bush and is now president of the Rapidan Energy Group, a consulting firm. “For oil markets, this means slower supply growth and even tighter global balances and higher prices in the coming years.”TotalEnergies, which is based near Paris, owns nearly 20 percent of Novatek, Russia’s largest liquefied natural gas company, and Shell has a strategic alliance with Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas monopoly.The Salym oil field, which Shell operates jointly with Gazprom in western Siberia.Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr./BloombergThe Western oil company most involved in Russia is BP, which owns nearly 20 percent of Rosneft, the state-controlled energy company managed by Igor Sechin, who is widely considered a close Putin ally and adviser. BP’s chief executive, Bernard Looney, and its former chief executive Bob Dudley sit on Rosneft’s board with Mr. Sechin and Alexander Novak, Russia’s deputy prime minister.Rosneft contributed $2.4 billion in profits and $600 million in dividends to BP in 2021, and has a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange. About a third of BP’s oil production, or 1.1 million barrels a day, came from Russia last year.BP executives have so far expressed calm. “We have been there over 30 years and our job is to focus on our business, and that is what we are doing,” Mr. Looney said in a recent conference call with analysts. “If something comes down the road, then obviously we will deal with it as it comes.”Most oil companies have been reporting bumper profits because of rising oil and gas prices. European firms are using some of their profits to invest more in wind, solar, hydrogen and other forms of cleaner energy. But the current crisis could be a major distraction, if not worse.Doing business in Russia has always been complicated, especially as Mr. Putin reasserted state control over energy, squeezing private investors.Shell was forced to give up control of its premier Russian liquefied natural gas project on Sakhalin Island, in eastern Russia, to Gazprom in 2006. Shell retains a modest stake in the facility, and it appears to want to keep the door open to more business in Russia. Along with four other European companies, it helped finance the estimated $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany.TotalEnergies has continued investing in a $27 billion natural gas complex in the Yamal Peninsula, in the Arctic, that Novatek controls. The project sidestepped earlier Western sanctions by obtaining financing from Chinese banks. It began producing gas for European and Asian customers in 2017.Share prices of BP and Total closed on Tuesday down more than 2 percent, and Shell was down about 1 percent.Prospects for Western oil companies seeking to do business in Russia were once far brighter. Exxon Mobil, Italy’s ENI and other foreign oil companies teamed up with Rosneft in 2012 and 2013 to explore Arctic oil and gas fields.BP owns nearly 20 percent of Rosneft, which operates this refinery in Novokuibyshevsk, Russia.Andrey Rudakov/BloombergBut U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed after Russia’s seizure of Crimea forced many Western companies to stop expanding in Russia in part by limiting access to financing and technology for deepwater exploration.Exxon formally abandoned exploration ventures with Rosneft in 2018, and took a $200 million after-tax loss.Understand How the Ukraine Crisis DevelopedCard 1 of 7How it all began. More

  • in

    Battling for Bolivia’s Lithium That's Vital to Electric Cars

    SALAR DE UYUNI, Bolivia — The mission was quixotic for a small Texas energy start-up: Beat out Chinese and Russian industrial giants in unlocking mineral riches that could one day power tens of millions of electric vehicles.A team traveled from Austin to Bolivia in late August to meet with local and national leaders at a government lithium complex and convince them that the company, EnergyX, had a technology that would fulfill Bolivia’s potential to be a global green-energy power. On arriving, they found that the conference they had planned to attend was canceled and that security guards blocked the location.Still, the real attraction was in plain sight: a giant chalky sea of brine high in the Andes called the Salar de Uyuni, which is rich in lithium, among several minerals with growing value worldwide because they are needed in batteries used in electric cars and on the power grid.Surrounded by rusty equipment, empty production ponds and pumps uncoupled from pipes, it seemed a forlorn spot. But to Teague Egan, EnergyX’s chief executive, it had nothing but promise.“This is the new Saudi Arabia,” he promised.The Indigenous Quechua people revere the Salar de Uyuni, 4,000 square miles of salt flats that their forebears believed were the mixture of a goddess’s breast milk and the salty tears of her baby. For Mr. Egan, the site is “pure white beauty as far as the eye can see.”With a quarter of the world’s known lithium, this nation of 12 million people potentially finds itself among the newly anointed winners in the global hunt for the raw materials needed to move the world away from oil, natural gas and coal in the fight against climate change.Eight foreign companies have been competing in recent months to establish pilot lithium projects here, including four from China and one from Russia, countries that have had friendlier relations with Bolivia’s government than the United States has.Just as wildcatters have long sought riches prospecting for oil, the clean energy revolution is spawning a wave of gritty entrepreneurs who hope to ride a new boom, vaulting themselves into the intersection of geopolitics and climate change. Some are familiar names like Elon Musk at Tesla, while Mr. Egan and others are strivers looking for their first break in mineral-rich places like Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the South Pacific.Mr. Egan is among the determined underdogs. His company, with 30 employees, is one of two from the United States among the eight contenders to develop Bolivia’s lithium reserves.Lithium is a basic component of lithium-ion batteries, enabling the flow of electrical currents. Because of the metal’s light weight, long life, large storage capacity and easy recharging, demand is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade to power an expanding fleet of vehicles produced by Tesla, Ford Motor, General Motors and other carmakers and spread power grid battery storage for renewable energy. This year alone, prices for lithium compounds are up over 200 percent on several global markets.Mr. Egan, 33, had never worked in the energy industry before starting EnergyX in 2018 to pursue lithium projects. With his hair slicked back, frequently unshaven and wearing his baseball cap backward, he projects youthful exuberance and self-confidence.He established a book club at his company and assigned a biography of Thomas Edison as the first offering to send a message to his colleagues: “You can try 100 times and give up. Edison tried 17,000 plants to produce domestic rubber.”Despite the bravado, he would appear to be an unlikely character to drive Bolivia’s energy future. He has never worked in Latin America and speaks virtually no Spanish.But for Mr. Egan, the only thing that is really important is his belief that his technology to coax the lithium out of the Andean brine is the best to finally make Bolivia an energy power.“In Bolivia they are so sensitive about the politics,” he said. “I just don’t understand why they should not do what is in the best interest of the country. I can only control what I can control.”.css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-1g3vlj0{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1g3vlj0{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-1g3vlj0 strong{font-weight:600;}.css-1g3vlj0 em{font-style:italic;}.css-1g3vlj0{margin-bottom:0;margin-top:0.25rem;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}‘The Lithium Is for Bolivians’There is much that Mr. Egan cannot control in this country long riddled with coups and racial, ideological and regional divisions.Bolivia’s governing party, the Movement for Socialism, is led by former President Evo Morales, who tried to draw the country closer to China before protests and the military forced him from power two years ago.The current president, Luis Arce, who was Mr. Morales’s economy minister, heads a coalition of social democrats and more doctrinaire leftists. He faces challenges from local movements that object to the socialist government and are wary of foreign interests, seeing them as exploiters of Bolivia’s mineral wealth going back to the 17th century.Only two years ago, a lithium deal between Mr. Morales and a German company led to protests that eventually spread around the country. Mr. Morales was forced to scrap a contract only a week before he fled the country.Marco Pumari, a local politician who led the protests, demanded a tripling of royalties for Potosí Province and local involvement in ownership of lithium enterprises. He said that his demands had not changed, and that his opposition to the ruling socialists remained steadfast.“As soon as they publicly choose the foreign companies, the province will mobilize,” he said in an interview. “The government is playing with fire.”In August, about 80 protesters took over two roads, blocking Mr. Arce from visiting government lithium facilities and demanding that he fire the new head of the state-owned lithium company and give local residents greater say in decisions about lithium production. The protest forced the cancellation of the conference that Mr. Egan and his EnergyX team were scheduled to attend.“We need asphalt roads and textile factories,” said Rosa Belen Julaca, a Potosí quinoa farmer who joined the protest even though she generally supports the government. “If they don’t listen to us, we’ll keep blocking the roads.”Government officials soon visited to calm tensions.Women poured colorful confetti on the heads of officials and draped their necks in wreaths of flowers. The visitors included Franklin Molina, the energy minister, and the head of the state lithium company, whom the protesters had wanted ousted.At a festive community meeting punctuated by Indigenous music, dance and poetry, they promised jobs and social programs from a lithium industry that would someday include manufacturing batteries and even electric cars.“The lithium is for Bolivians,” Mr. Molina declared to cheers.Energy experts say a major increase in Bolivian lithium production would keep battery prices down, helping President Biden achieve his goal of electrifying half of new cars sold in the United States in 2030, up from 4 percent today.“The amount of lithium we need in any of our climate goals is incredible,” said Anna Shpitsberg, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for energy transformation. “Everyone is trying to build up their supply chains and think about how to be strategic.”But Washington has little sway in Bolivia, whose leaders have long disagreed with the American approach to drug policy and Venezuela. That may explain why some energy executives do not think Bolivia is worth the risk.“You’ve had 30 years’ worth of projects in Bolivia with almost nothing to show,” said Robert Mintak, chief executive of Standard Lithium, a publicly traded mining company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, referring to lithium development efforts dating back to 1990. “You have a landlocked country with no infrastructure, no work force, political risk, no intellectual property protection. So as a developer, I would choose someplace else that is safer.”Mr. Egan sees the odds differently.‘I Need to Be Involved’That Mr. Egan has gotten this far is a marvel. He learned about Bolivian lithium only by chance when he and a friend crisscrossed South America as tourists in 2018.When they got to the salt flats, a guide explained that they were standing on the world’s largest lithium reserve. “I thought, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I need to be involved,’” Mr. Egan said.He had tried his hand as a sports and music agent and ran a small investment fund at the time. He had invested in Tesla in 2013 at $9 a share; it now trades around $975. (He would not reveal how many shares he had bought and how many he still had.)But he felt that he wasn’t achieving much. Before Mr. Egan traveled to South America, his father, Michael, the founder of Alamo Rent A Car, advised him to make two lists — of his five biggest passions and of the five industries he thought would grow fastest in the coming decades. Renewable energy was on both lists.Mr. Egan read up on lithium. He settled on filtering membranes as the vital missing link to make lithium evaporation ponds more productive and profitable. Then he came across a 2018 paper written by Benny Freeman, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and some scientists working in Australia about a new type of membrane with atom-size pores that could be used to separate and purify lithium salts from rocks and brines.He traveled to Austin and Australia, and Mr. Egan and Dr. Freeman hit it off.Teague Egan at the Salar de Uyuni, which he called “the new Saudi Arabia.”The two made an unlikely pair. Dr. Freeman, 60, was born into poverty in rural North Carolina and was the first person in his family to graduate from high school. Mr. Egan grew up wealthy in southern Florida. Dr. Freeman became passionate about chemistry handling pesticides on his family’s apple farm. Mr. Egan said he had learned business skills from his father at the dinner table.Mr. Egan returned again and again to Bolivia, but he made little progress selling officials on his technology. “All these people, their hands are just tied behind their backs,” he said, since they are scared to offend leaders at the top.A big break came in April 2020 when Diego von Vacano, a Bolivian political science professor at Texas A&M University — and an informal adviser to Mr. Arce, then a leading presidential candidate — contacted Dr. Freeman for advice on lithium extraction. Dr. Freeman connected Dr. von Vacano and Mr. Egan, and the Texas A&M professor became Mr. Egan’s vital bridge to Bolivia.After Mr. Arce won, Mr. Egan attended the inauguration. With Dr. von Vacano’s help, Mr. Egan made critical connections in the new administration.He was not able, though, to secure a meeting with the new president. During one trip, he tracked down Mr. Arce when they were both in Santa Cruz. Accompanied by Dr. von Vacano, Mr. Egan finally got a glimpse of the president eating in the canvas-covered wooden stalls of a fish market.But as he approached the leader, Dr. von Vacano stopped him. Mr. Arce was eating with a congressman antagonistic toward the United States. Avoiding a scene, Mr. Egan walked away. He returned home, but he was not done trying.A Visit and a BlessingMr. Egan discussing strategy with his team after learning that the conference they flew to Bolivia to attend had been canceled.In August, after the conference was canceled, Mr. Egan and his team flew to La Paz, the seat of government, and kept knocking on doors, hoping to capitalize on the contacts that Mr. Egan had made among top Energy Ministry officials.As always, there were hurdles.When they met with Carlos Humberto Ramos, the newly appointed head of the state lithium company, to persuade him of the advantages of their approach, they found that he had little understanding of EnergyX’s membrane technology.Mr. Egan’s team returned to Mr. Ramos the next day, and after explaining its technology to his top technicians, the team was told that it could visit the lithium complex and that an initial agreement approving EnergyX’s project was virtually a done deal.That night, EnergyX’s strongest ally in the government — Álvaro Arnez, a deputy energy minister overseeing lithium development — gave the arrangement his blessing. He joined Mr. Egan’s team for a celebration at an elegant La Paz restaurant over plates of dried Amazonian catfish and roast pork with pear kimchi.The next morning, Mr. Egan and his team flew back to the salt flats.They inspected several shimmering man-made ponds, which hold brine for evaporation — a method of lithium extraction that has been hampered by heavy seasonal rains.Even when dry, the lithium must be separated chemically from other minerals, a process that wastes much of the desired lithium.Mr. Egan told technicians that his technology could greatly increase and speed up production.There were disagreements over where to put the proposed pilot project, and when Mr. Egan suggested ways to move forward toward commercialization, the technicians told him to wait until initial test results were in. But he was content that he toured the facilities before other companies.In an interview, Mr. Molina, the energy minister, said Chinese and Russian diplomats were lobbying on behalf of their own companies, but he insisted that “there is room for Americans, Russians, Chinese, Japanese, whoever wants to invest as long as they respect our sovereignty.”China has advantages. It already controls substantial lithium assets in South America, and its businesses have made roughly $4.5 billion in lithium investments over the last three years in South America and Mexico. Chinese banks give low-interest loans to Chinese mining and construction companies operating abroad to advance President Xi Jinping’s plans to dominate industries of the future.As for Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin has spoken by phone with Mr. Arce at least twice about lithium and other matters, Russian officials said.Mr. Egan said he was getting virtually no help from the U.S. government. And American officials say their best hope is to gently press for a level playing field.The long game has paid off for Mr. Egan, at least so far. He signed an agreement to start the pilot, and in October he shipped a container to Bolivia outfitted with pumps, valves, tanks and membranes to separate lithium from brine. If the pilot shows promising results, he may be able to proceed with a commercial project.Of the 20 companies in competition at the start of the year, the government has named eight to carry out pilots, including one other small American company, Lilac Solutions of California.All the contenders — the eighth is from Argentina — will be competing for Bolivian government attention and resources like power hookups and skilled local technicians in the months ahead before any can be approved to move toward commercial operations.“We still need to do a demonstration and scale it up,” Mr. Egan acknowledged. “We still need to go commercial. I mean, this is just Day 1.” More

  • in

    U.S. and Others Pledge Export Controls Tied to Human Rights

    A partnership with Australia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom aims to stem the flow of key technologies to authoritarian governments.WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced a partnership on Friday with Australia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to try to stem the flow of sensitive technologies to authoritarian governments.The partnership, named the Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative, calls for the countries to align their policies on exports of key technologies and develop a voluntary written code of conduct to apply human rights criteria to export licenses, according to a White House statement.The effort is aimed at combating the rise of “digital authoritarianism” in countries like China and Russia, where software and advanced surveillance technologies have been used to track dissidents and journalists, shape public opinion and censor information deemed dangerous by the government.The announcement was part of the last day of the Summit for Democracy, the White House’s virtual gathering of officials from over 100 countries aimed at bolstering democracies.By working to synchronize export controls across countries, American officials hope to cast a wider net to prevent authoritarian nations from accessing important technologies, as well as help companies with U.S. operations operate on a more even playing field.While a decade ago the internet was seen as a force for democracy and openness, authoritarian governments today have learned that big data, internet controls, artificial intelligence and social media “could make them even more powerful,” Samantha Power, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said at the virtual summit on Friday.Ms. Power said the United States would undertake a suite of new measures over the next year to help set global norms around technology and human rights. Those steps include investing up to $20 million annually to drastically expand the digital democracy work of the Agency for International Development, working with like-minded countries to establish principles for open source technology products, and introducing an initiative with Canada and Denmark to lay out how governments should use surveillance technology in a manner consistent with human rights and the rule of law. The United States will also provide up to $3.75 million to fund new “democracy affirming” technologies, like privacy-preserving artificial intelligence, and establish a separate fund for anti-censorship technology, Ms. Power said. The government’s use of export controls, especially against China, greatly ramped up during the Trump administration, which imposed restrictions on ZTE, Huawei and other Chinese technology firms to prevent Beijing from gaining access to sensitive technologies like quantum computing, advanced semiconductor chips and artificial intelligence that could give its military an advantage or build up the Chinese surveillance state.But critics say those measures, by focusing only on American exports, fell short of their goals. While companies that manufacture products in the United States no longer ship certain goods to China, competitors in Japan, Europe and elsewhere have continued to make sales. That has encouraged some high-tech companies to devote more spending on research and development outside the United States, to maintain access to the lucrative Chinese market.American-developed technology has also been used by authoritarian governments for more nefarious purposes, like monitoring and censoring their citizens.In a joint statement issued Friday, Australia, Denmark, Norway and the United States said that “authoritarian governments increasingly are using surveillance tools and other related technologies in connection with serious human rights abuses, both within their countries and across international borders, including in acts of transnational repression to censor political opposition and track dissidents.”They added, “Such use risks defeating the benefits that advanced technologies may bring to the world’s nations and peoples.”The work at this week’s summit included exploring how best to strengthen domestic legal frameworks, share information on threats and risks, and share and develop best practices for controlling technology exports, a White House statement said.In the coming year, the countries are expected to consult with academics and industries on their efforts. Any decisions on controls of specific technologies will be voluntary and left up to individual countries to carry out.The Biden administration has continued a trend, begun in the Trump administration, of leveling export controls at companies engaged in human rights violations, including those that have supported China’s repression of Muslim minorities.This week, the Biden administration announced new restrictions on Cambodia to address human rights abuses, corruption and the growing influence of China’s military in the country. In November, the administration blacklisted the NSO Group, an Israeli technology firm, saying the company knowingly supplied spyware used to target the phones of dissidents, human rights activists and journalists.The administration has also accelerated discussions of export controls with Europe, through a partnership set up this year called the Trade and Technology Council. But given that there is no legal basis for imposing import bans across the European Union, decisions on those restrictions fall to its member states.The United States is already part of a multilateral arrangement on export controls called the Wassenaar Arrangement, which was established in 1996. But critics say the grouping, which has more than 40 members, including Russia, has moved too slowly to match the pace of technological development. More

  • in

    European Steel Plan Shows Biden’s Bid to Merge Climate and Trade Policy

    A potential agreement on steel trade provides the clearest look yet at how the Biden administration plans to implement a trade policy that is both protectionist and progressiveWASHINGTON — President Biden has promised to use trade policy as a tool to mitigate climate change. This weekend, the administration provided its first look at how it plans to mesh those policy goals, saying the United States and the European Union would try to curb carbon emissions as part of a trade deal covering steel and aluminum.The arrangement, which American and European leaders aim to introduce by 2024, would use tariffs or other tools to encourage the production and trade of metals made with fewer carbon emissions in places including the United States and European Union, and block dirtier steel and aluminum produced in countries including China.If finalized, it would be the first time a U.S. trade agreement includes specific targets on carbon emissions, said Ben Beachy, the director of the Sierra Club’s Living Economy program.“No U.S. trade deal to date has even mentioned climate change, much less included binding climate standards,” said Mr. Beachy.The announcement was short on details, and negotiations with European leaders are likely to face multiple roadblocks. But it provided an outline for how the Biden administration hopes to knit together its concerns about trade and climate and work with allies to take on a recalcitrant China, at a time when progress on multicountry trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization has stalled.“The U.S. leads the world in our clean steel technology,” Gina Raimondo, the secretary of commerce, said in an interview on Monday. She said the United States would work with allies “to preference cleaner steel, which will create an incentive to make more investments in technology,” resulting in fewer carbon emissions and more jobs.In the same interview, Katherine Tai, the United States Trade Representative, said the potential agreement would restrict market access for countries that don’t meet certain carbon standards, or that engage in nonmarket practices and contribute to global overcapacity in the steel sector — accusations that are often levied at China.The effort would seek to build “a global arrangement that promotes not just fair trade in steel but also pro-climate and responsible trade in steel,” Ms. Tai said.Kevin Dempsey, the president of the American Iron and Steel Institute, said at an industry forum in Washington on Tuesday that the arrangement would be “positive for the U.S. industry,” which has the lowest carbon intensity per ton of steel of the major steel-producing countries.China accounts for nearly 60 percent of global steel production. Its use of a common steel-production method causes more than twice as much climate pollution as does the same technology in the United States, according to estimates by Global Efficiency Intelligence.In its announcement on Saturday, the Biden administration also said it had reached a deal to ease the tariffs that former President Donald J. Trump had imposed on European metals while the governments work toward the carbon accord.The United States would replace the 25 percent tariff on European steel and a 10 percent tariff on European aluminum with a so-called tariff-rate quota. In return, the European Union would drop the retaliatory tariffs it imposed on other American products, like bourbon and motorcycles.Under the new terms, 3.3 million metric tons of European steel would be allowed to enter the United States duty-free each year, with any steel above that volume subject to a 25 percent tariff.European producers would be allowed to ship 18,000 metric tons of unwrought aluminum, which often comes in the form of ingots, and 366,000 metric tons of wrought or semifinished aluminum into the United States each year, while volumes above that would be charged a 10 percent tariff, the commerce department said.To qualify for zero tariffs, the steel must be entirely made in the European Union — a provision designed to keep cheaper steel from countries including China and Russia from finding a backdoor into the United States via Europe.Supporters of free trade have criticized the Biden administration for relying on the same protectionist trade measures used by the Trump administration, which deployed both tariffs and quotas to protect domestic metal makers.Jake Colvin, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, said the announcement would ratchet down trade tensions between the United States and Europe. But he called the trade barriers “an unwelcome form of managed trade” that would add costs and undermine American competitiveness.Ms. Tai said the administration had made a deliberate choice not to heed calls “for the president to just undo everything that the Trump administration had done on trade.”Mr. Biden’s plan, she said, “is that we formulate a worker-centered trade policy. And that means not actually going back to the way things were in 2015 and 2016, challenging us to do trade in a different way from how we’ve done it earlier, but also, critically, to challenge us to do trade in a way different from how the Trump administration did.”A factory in southern China that makes steel parts. The trade proposal would block dirtier steel and aluminum produced in countries including China.The New York TimesThe focus on carbon emissions differs from that of the Trump administration, which rejected any attempts to negotiate on carbon mitigation and withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change.But negotiations with Europe will face challenges, among them developing a common methodology for measuring how much carbon is emitted as certain products are made. Still, the announcement suggests that the United States and Europe might be ready to work toward a collaborative approach on lowering carbon emissions, despite past differences on how the problem should be addressed.European leaders have long advocated an explicit price on the carbon dioxide that companies emit while making their products. In July, the European Union proposed a carbon border adjustment mechanism that would require companies to pay for carbon emissions produced outside Europe, to discourage manufacturers from evading Europe’s restrictions on pollution by moving abroad.An explicit tax on carbon has met with more resistance in the United States, where some politicians want to update regulatory requirements or put the onus on companies to invest in cleaner production technology.Todd Tucker, the director of governance studies at the Roosevelt Institute, said the latest announcement suggested that the European Union may be “a little bit more flexible” on how the United States and other partners would go about lowering emissions. Mr. Biden’s reconciliation bill, for example, contains a proposal for a “green bank” that could provide financing for firms to transition to cleaner technologies, he said.“If the U.S. ends up achieving decarbonization through more of an investments and industrial-policy approach, it seems like they’re OK with that,” Mr. Tucker said.Though the earliest negotiations over carbon emissions in the steel sector involve the European Union, the Biden administration says it wants to quickly extend the partnership to other countries.In twin announcements on Sunday, the Department of Commerce said it had begun close consultations with Japan and the United Kingdom “on bilateral and multilateral issues related to steel and aluminum,” with a focus on “the need for like-minded countries to take collective action.”Both Japan and the United Kingdom still face a 25 percent tariff on steel exports to the United States imposed by Mr. Trump.The talks suggest a template for how the Biden administration will try to engage allies to counter China’s growing economic heft and make progress on goals like climate and workers rights.The administration has rejected Mr. Trump’s “America First” approach to trade, saying the United States needs to work with like-minded countries. But they have also acknowledged that the inefficiency of negotiations at the World Trade Organization, and distanced themselves from broader, multicountry trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.The announcements suggest that the Biden administration may not see comprehensive trade deals as the most effective way to accomplish many of its goals, but rather, industry-specific agreements among a limited number of democratic, free-market countries. That approach is similar to the cooperation the United States announced with the European Union for the civil aircraft industry in June.Ms. Raimondo said the agreement to ease the tariffs on the European Union was a “very significant achievement” that would help to alleviate supply chain problems and lower prices for companies that use steel and aluminum to make other products.“It’s all kind of a table setter to a global arrangement, whereby we work with our allies all over the world over the next couple of years,” she said. More