Policy brief

How Europe should answer the US Inflation Reduction Act

This policy brief explains what is in the IRA, the impact on the EU and other economies, and how the EU should react.

Publishing date
23 February 2023
G7 leaders

Reading time: 2 minutes

Reading time: 2 minutes

Download as PDF

Executive summary

The 2022 United States Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a significant and welcome climate law. It also includes trade-distortive subsidies, including local-content requirements prohibited under World Trade Organisation rules – the first time the US has done this and a blow to the international trading system that could trigger protectionism in other countries. 

The expected IRA green subsidies are of similar size to those available in the European Union, except in renewable energy production, where EU subsidies remain far larger. However, there are important qualitative differences. Some IRA subsidies discriminate against foreign producers while EU subsidies do not. IRA clean-tech subsidies are simpler and less fragmented, and they focus mainly on mass deployment of green technologies rather than innovation.

The IRA will likely harm Europe through its competitiveness effect, while it will likely benefit climate transition in Europe and most of the rest of the world. However, the magnitude of both effects is very uncertain, partly because the IRA will induce substitution away from Chinese inputs. By forcing the reorganisation of supply chains, the IRA may make the EU and other economies more competitive relative to China. It may also initially slow the green transition. But in the longer run, this effect should be outweighed by the reduction in the cost of clean tech driven by the IRA. 

In responding to the IRA, the EU should not just seek to protect its competitiveness relative to the US but to pursue broader aims, including competitiveness in general, speedy decarbonisation and broad foreign policy and development policy goals. These aims imply that the EU should not impose local-content requirements of its own, should not loosen state-aid rules and should not mimic the IRA’s approach to manufacturing subsidies. Rather, it should focus on boosting its structural competitiveness, formulate a trade policy response that includes reform of the international subsidies regime, and develop an instrument for EU-level subsidies that focuses on early-stage development and increasing EU resilience to trade disruptions.

The authors thank Daron Acemoglu, Laurence Boone, Grégory Claeys, Kim Clausing, Uri Dadush, Zsolt Darvas, Olivier Debande, Maria Demertzis, Kelly Gallagher, Antoine Mathieu Collin, Marie Le Mouel, Jean Pisani-Ferry, Małgorzata Kałużyńska, Armin Steinbach and John Van Reenen for discussions or correspondence on the topic and comments on an earlier draft. Conor McCaffrey and Cecilia Trasi provided outstanding research assistance.

About the authors

  • David Kleimann

    David Kleimann (PhD) is a former Visiting fellow at Bruegel. He is a trade expert with 15 years of experience in law, policy, and institutions governing EU and international trade. His current work focuses on the climate and trade policy nexus as well as legal and diplomatic challenges arising from transatlantic and international climate and trade cooperation. His research has appeared in various internationally renowned journals and a monograph published by Cambridge University Press (CUP). His comments on trade law and policy issues have featured, amongst others, in the New York Times, Economist, Financial Times, Handelsblatt, Telegraph, Politico Magazine, The Hill, and Caijing Magazine. In the past, David has provided consultancy to the World Bank's international trade department, the European Commission, and the PRC's Ministry of Commerce. Moreover, he has been a trade policy advisor to the Chairman of the European Parliament's international trade committee, Bernd Lange.

    David earned his PhD in Law from the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy, where he defended his thesis on ‘The Transformation of EU External Economic Governance’. He conducted postdoctoral research at Johns Hopkins' School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and Georgetown University's Institute for International Economic Law. He holds a 1st of class Masters degree in International Law and Economics (MILE) from the World Trade Institute (WTI) in Berne, Switzerland, an LL.M in International Law (with distinction) from Kent Law School in Brussels, Belgium, and a BA in Staatswissenschaften (Public Administration) from Erfurt University. In the early days of his professional career, David completed traineeships at the European Commission's Directorate General for External Trade and the World Trade Organization's Agriculture Division.

  • Niclas Poitiers

    Niclas Poitiers, a German citizen, joined Bruegel as a research fellow in September 2019.

    Niclas' research interests include international trade, international macroeconomics and the digital economy.  He is working on topics on e-commerce in trade as well as European trade policy in global trade wars. Furthermore he is interested in topics on income inequality and welfare state policies.

    He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Universitat de Barcelona, a M.Sc. in economics from the Universität Bonn, and a B.Sc. from Universität Mannheim. During his Ph.D. he was a visiting scholar at Northwestern University.

    Niclas is fluent in English, Spanish, and German.

  • André Sapir

    André Sapir, a Belgian citizen, is a Senior fellow at Bruegel. He is also University Professor at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and Research fellow of the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research.

    Between 1990 and 2004, he worked for the European Commission, first as Economic Advisor to the Director-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, and then as Principal Economic Advisor to President Prodi, also heading his Economic Advisory Group. In 2004, he published 'An Agenda for a Growing Europe', a report to the president of the Commission by a group of independent experts that is known as the Sapir report. After leaving the Commission, he first served as External Member of President Barroso’s Economic Advisory Group and then as Member of the General Board (and Chair of the Advisory Scientific Committee) of the European Systemic Risk Board based at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

    André has written extensively on European integration, international trade and globalisation. He holds a PhD in economics from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he worked under the supervision of Béla Balassa. He was elected Member of the Academia Europaea and of the Royal Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.

  • Simone Tagliapietra

    Simone Tagliapietra is a Senior fellow at Bruegel. He is also a Professor of EU Energy and Climate Policy at The Johns Hopkins University - School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Europe.

    His research focuses on the EU climate and energy policy and on the political economy of global decarbonisation. With a record of numerous policy and scientific publications, also in leading journals such as Nature and Science, he is the author of Global Energy Fundamentals (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and co-author of The Macroeconomics of Decarbonisation (Cambridge University Press, 2024).

    His columns and policy work are widely published and cited in leading international media such as the BBC, CNN, Financial Times, The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Corriere della Sera, Le Monde, El Pais, and several others.

    Simone also is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). He holds a PhD in Institutions and Policies from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Born in the Dolomites in 1988, he speaks Italian, English and French.

  • Nicolas Véron

    Nicolas Véron is a senior fellow at Bruegel and at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC. His research is mostly about financial systems and financial reform around the world, including global financial regulatory initiatives and current developments in the European Union. He was a cofounder of Bruegel starting in 2002, initially focusing on Bruegel’s design, operational start-up and development, then on policy research since 2006-07. He joined the Peterson Institute in 2009 and divides his time between the US and Europe.

    Véron has authored or co-authored numerous policy papers that include banking supervision and crisis management, financial reporting, the Eurozone policy framework, and economic nationalism. He has testified repeatedly in front of committees of the European Parliament, national parliaments in several EU member states, and US Congress. His publications also include Smoke & Mirrors, Inc.: Accounting for Capitalism, a book on accounting standards and practices (Cornell University Press, 2006), and several books in French.

    His prior experience includes working for Saint-Gobain in Berlin and Rothschilds in Paris in the early 1990s; economic aide to the Prefect in Lille (1995-97); corporate adviser to France’s Labour Minister (1997-2000); and chief financial officer of MultiMania / Lycos France, a publicly-listed online media company (2000-2002). From 2002 to 2009 he also operated an independent Paris-based financial consultancy.

    Véron is a board member of the derivatives arm (Global Trade Repository) of the Depositary Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC), a financial infrastructure company that operates globally on a not-for-profit basis. A French citizen born in 1971, he has a quantitative background as a graduate from Ecole Polytechnique (1992) and Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris (1995). He is trilingual in English, French and Spanish, and has fluent understanding of German and Italian.

    In September 2012, Bloomberg Markets included Véron in its second annual 50 Most Influential list with reference to his early advocacy of European banking union.

     

  • Reinhilde Veugelers

    Prof Dr. Reinhilde Veugelers is a full professor at KULeuven (BE) at the Department of Management, Strategy and Innovation.  She has been a Senior fellow at Bruegel since 2009.  She is also a CEPR Research Fellow, a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and of the Academia Europeana. From 2004-2008, she was on academic leave, as advisor at the European Commission (BEPA Bureau of European Policy Analysis).  She served on the ERC Scientific Council from 2012-2018 and on the RISE Expert Group advising the commissioner for Research.  She is a member of VARIO, the expert group advising the Flemish minister for Innovation. She is currently a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors of the journal Science and a co-PI on the Science of Science Funding Initiative at NBER.

    With her research concentrated in the fields of industrial organisation, international economics and strategy, innovation and science, she has authored numerous well cited publications in leading international journals.  Specific recent topics include novelty in technology development,  international technology transfers through MNEs, global innovation value chains, young innovative companies, innovation for climate change,  industry science links and their impact on firm’s innovative productivity, evaluation of research & innovation policy,  explaining scientific productivity,  researchers’ international mobility,  novel scientific research.

    Websites:
    https://feb.kuleuven.be/reinhilde.veugelers
    https://bruegel.org/author/reinhilde-veugelers/

  • Jeromin Zettelmeyer

    Jeromin Zettelmeyer has been Director of Bruegel since September 2022. Born in Madrid in 1964, Jeromin was previously a Deputy Director of the Strategy and Policy Review Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Prior to that, he was Dennis Weatherstone Senior Fellow (2019) and Senior Fellow (2016-19) at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Director-General for Economic Policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (2014-16); Director of Research and Deputy Chief Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2008-2014), and an IMF staff member, where he worked in the Research, Western Hemisphere, and European II Departments (1994-2008).

    Jeromin holds a Ph.D. in economics from MIT (1995) and an economics degree from the University of Bonn (1990). He is a Research Fellow in the International Macroeconomics Programme of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), and a member of the CEPR’s Research and Policy Network on European economic architecture, which he helped found. He is also a member of CESIfo. He has published widely on topics including financial crises, sovereign debt, economic growth, transition to market, and Europe’s monetary union. His recent research interests include EMU economic architecture, sovereign debt, debt and climate, and the return of economic nationalism in advanced and emerging market countries.    

Related content