US, EU Join French President’s Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace 

President Kamala Harris to the Paris Conference on Libya in Paris, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021.

President Kamala Harris to the Paris Conference on Libya in Paris, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times via AP

The move is one of several recent actions the Biden administration has taken integrating cybersecurity into broader trade and national security issues.

The United States and the European Union have announced their commitment to a key international agreement on responsible behavior online, three years after French President Emmanuel Macron first made the call.

Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted cybersecurity in remarks the White House released Friday from a press conference in Paris. Harris is in Paris for an annual peace forum where Macron in 2018 issued the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace.    

“We talked extensively, both in our bilateral but with others, and again yesterday on a stage, about what we as nations must do—who have similar values, whose nations were founded on similar principles—to apply those principles and norms to how we will engage with each other and interpret each other's actions, as it relates to our use of technology,” Harris said. “And, of course, cybersecurity being the most obvious point there, addressing what we have seen in the United States and around the world: the hackers that have compromised systems, ransomware, not to mention the daily abuse of individuals’ privacy, and manipulation and monetization of other people's data and personal information.”

Entities that had already signed on to the Paris Call, as it’s termed, include major companies like Microsoft and state and local U.S. entities as well as countries from around the world. The agreement’s high level principles include defending intellectual property, the electoral process, individuals and infrastructure, including for the internet itself. It also reflected a commitment to the non-proliferation of malicious software, tricky territory for governments with offensive cyber operations.

The agreement was shunned by the Trump administration but faced with a barrage of suspected nation-state activity since taking office, the Biden administration has prioritized cybersecurity and engaged more internationally.

The Commerce Department, for example, recently announced the U.S. joining other nations in the Wassenaar Arrangement and would start controlling the export of tools that could be used for both commercial and military purposes. And on Nov.3, Commerce blacklisted Israel’s NSO Group and others over alleged human rights violations connected to their surveillance technology. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo is reportedly travelling to Israel on Friday to partner on cybersecurity against ransomware. Adeyemo’s trip comes amid emphasis on multilateral sanctions coordination and threats from emerging technologies including virtual currencies, a spokesperson told Reuters.

Officials also recently formed the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council in efforts to more collaboratively govern privacy and cybersecurity issues. European Union President Ursula von der Leyen mentioned the council in announcing Thursday that the EU was also joining the Paris Call.

“Our goal is to keep Trojan horses out of our Single Market, while contributing to higher cybersecurity standards throughout the world,” she said.

The U.S joining the Paris call also comes in the wake of increased fears of Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific. Those seemed to leave France in the lurch when the U.S. announced a new submarine deal with Australia

“The United States’ support of the Paris Call does not mark a change in U.S. Government policy but rather reflects our continuing commitment to act responsibly and partner with like minded states to promote stability in cyberspace,” the State Department said Wednesday.    

China and Russia are notably not signed on to the Paris Call. President Joe Biden is set to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a virtual event Monday. 

“The two leaders will discuss ways to responsibly manage the competition between the United States and the PRC, as well as ways to work together where our interests align,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a press release Friday.