EU, U.S. step up cooperation to combat Ukraine war disruption

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis, France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and other guests pose for a family photo ahead of a dinner at the U.S.-European Union Trade and Technology Council summit in Paris, France, May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/POOL

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PARIS, May 16 (Reuters) - The European Union and the United States agreed on Monday to closer cooperation to counter disrupted supply of commodities and food caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and to combat disinformation from Moscow.

EU and U.S. officials convened at Paris-Saclay University on the outskirts of the French capital for the second Trade and Technology Council, a forum initially seen as a transatlantic counterweight to China, but now also with a clear focus on Russia.

In a joint statement, the two allies said they would work to reduce over-reliance on certain trading partners for agricultural commodities and inputs to increase resilience of global food production.

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Reduced grain shipments from Ukraine have led to price spikes, exacerbated now by India suspending wheat exports.

EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis said the two allies had agreed to cooperate at international forums, such as the World Trade Organization in June, to counter such curbs.

"Unfortunately, the tendency is, when countries start to introduce restrictions, there is a cascading effect... and it is exactly the least developed, most vulnerable nations that are suffering more," he told Reuters.

It was also important to find alternative land routes to export Ukrainian grain, Dombrovskis said.

The sides also agreed to collaborate to reduce their dependency on "unreliable sources" and mitigate the impact of sudden supply ruptures of critical materials from Russia.

The transatlantic trade blocs will cooperate to diversify supply chains for rare earth magnets and in solar power production and seek to overcome shortages of semiconductors with greater transparency and an early warning system, while agreeing also to avoid a chip sector subsidy race.

The European Union and the United States also condemned the Russian government's undermining of freedom of expression, saying it had "repeatedly used the veil of disinformation" to obscure war crimes.

"Tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of grain are prevented from leaving Ukraine because of... the Russian invasion waged on Ukraine and of course we need that narrative to spread," EU tech chief Margrethe Vestager told a news conference.

The sides had agreed to cooperate "to get the facts right", she said.

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Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Mathieu Roseman, editing by Ed Osmond

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