As the incoming Biden administration prepares to “renew U.S. democracy and alliances,” France and America are poised for a technology-focused rapprochement. France, once thought to be destined for decline and isolation in the early 2000s, has reemerged as a central player in 21st-century geopolitics. A revitalized U.S.-French alliance, anchored in deep technological cooperation, is critical to advancing America’s interests on multiple fronts. It is also a necessary path to defend France’s global interests, and to bolster its nascent high-tech sectors.

French power is more comprehensive than many Americans realize. It is estimated that by mid-century, France’s population will be roughly on par with Germany’s, for the first time in over a century. Unlike Germany or Japan, France holds a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council and is able to project military might far beyond its borders. Unlike the United Kingdom, France is a powerhouse within European institutions. And as the only country straddling the geographic and cultural divides between northern and southern Europe, France is uniquely positioned to influence continental affairs. From the Near East to the Sahel and the Indo-Pacific, there has been much geopolitical commonality and coordinated action between France and the United States—through succeeding administrations in the past decade.

France’s sense of its own independent national role long hindered a major role inside the European Union. That is no longer so. Macron ran on an openly European platform and his administration is the most proactive ever to emerge on European issues. There is now a continuity between France’s heritage and values and a European destiny.

As a new U.S. administration looks to the future, it will be hard pressed to find a better and more capable friend than America’s first ally. This will not be undercut by the deepening ties between France and Germany, or by France’s more prominent advocacy of “strategic autonomy,” now endorsed by the European Union. The two countries move at their own pace and with different emphasis.

A Franco-American rapprochement does not mean always agreeing on everything. But in moments of great adversity, France and the United States have stood as one; they have fought for each other’s freedoms from Yorktown to Normandy. As the grandsons of Holocaust survivors (and for one of us, a combatant in the French Resistance), we know the value of liberty and justice that have long united France and America. A revitalized alliance, rooted in technological cooperation, is key to defending shared values in the future. Domestic debates on the digital age straddle both sides of the Atlantic.

These issues should not divide Europe and the United States; in a world where China’s model of digital authoritarianism is presenting a shared systemic political challenge, it is essential that North America and Europe prioritize building a secure technology space with consistent democratic norms, leading to their adoption by others.

The French government understands this. Macron has made technology a centerpiece of his agenda—even making sure to include two iPhones in his official presidential portrait. In 2017, Macron called for France to be “a nation that thinks and moves like a startup.” Two years later, he announced a 5 billion-euro investment in growing France’s tech industry and creating 25 French “unicorns” by 2025.
The French Tech Mission, a government initiative to encourage startups, has placed representatives in every ministry. Meanwhile, Station F, a 366,000 square-foot converted train depot in Paris is now the world’s largest tech incubator. Under Macron, wrote Celia Belin and Boris Toucas, France decided to “rethink its international role and reboot.” With the right attention and investment, a rebooted Franco-American tech alliance is poised to address several pressing global issues.

France is a center of advanced industries with critical technologies—aerospace, nuclear, some IT and many defense-related developments. This has made it a target for Chinese technology theft. It is the most active supporter inside the European Union of investment screening and tech export controls—resulting in the recent EU proposal of an EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council. A tech alliance with France can help protect the integrity of the Internet.

France has led the way in combating disinformation, with the 2017 French elections seeing French institutions and media outlets unite against attempted hack-and-leak operations. The following year, the French government issued the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, bringing together more than 1,100 governments, companies, and civil society actors—from Greece to Google—around a set of principles for promoting cyber peace and protecting the democratic Internet. French leadership dovetails with President-elect Joe Biden’s proposal for a Summit for Democracy that would, among other objectives, call on tech companies to “ensure that their tools and platforms are not empowering the surveillance state, gutting privacy, facilitating repression in China and elsewhere, spreading hate and misinformation, spurring people to violence, or remaining susceptible to other misuse.”

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