26 May 2021

On 26 May, EIF hosted a virtual debate on ‘Towards Transatlantic Partnership: the role of digital transformation’ to focus on the important role of a collaborative Transatlantic Partnership which, with the new US administration, may lead to new areas of cooperation. The debate, co-hosted by MEP and EIF Chair Pilar del Castillo and MEP and EIF Member Liesje Schreinemacher, was moderated by EIF Director General Maria Rosa Gibellini and heard the views of the following experts:

  • Peter Linton, Senior Fellow, Transatlantic Policy Network
  • Rupert Schlegelmilch, Director, The Americas, Agriculture and Food Safety, DG Trade, European Commission
  • Stephen C. Anderson, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Communications and Information Policy in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, US Department of State
  • Nate Tibbits, Senior Vice President of Global Government Affairs and Public Affairs, Qualcomm
Towards Transatlantic Partnership: the role of digital transformation

Pilar del Castillo MEP underlined the urgency to establish a common digital transatlantic mission; the transatlantic space is, in fact, the heart of the global digital economy – north America and Europe generate 75% of the global digital content and transatlantic data flows continue to grow exponentially, noted the MEP – and the need for global cooperation on digitalisation goes beyond the hardware and software: it is also about values, political culture and society.

Del Castillo MEP welcomed the European Commission’s Communication on a New Transatlantic Agenda and reiterated the importance of the upcoming EU-US Summit in June: “it is good news and it is clear that we must start discussions on digitalisation as soon as possible”. According to the MEP, the most urgent issues to tackle are: harmful market behaviour, illegal content, algorithm fuelled propagation of hate speech and disinformation, fair taxation in the context of OECD and G20, data governance, AI.

Liesje Schreinemacher MEP reminded the objective importance of the world’s largest trade relationship between the EU and the USA, which are now also facing the same global challenges such as the pandemic, climate change and digital transition. The pandemic has brought to us a window of opportunity for a renewed collaboration on the digital sphere.

According to the MEP, the most urgent challenges when it comes to the digital agenda are: (1) global data flows – finding a sustainable and durable solution without compromising the privacy of our citizens, (2) standardisation and interoperability – to ensure that these respect our values and that the products are interoperable (“after all, the digital market is a global market”), (3) tech governance – the MEP welcomes the creation of an EU-US Trade and Technology Council, (4) WTO – a global perspective is necessary as well as cooperation with EU’s strategic partners.

Peter Linton’s remarks reflected his own experience over these years of engagement with both TPN and EIF: the transatlantic cooperation has improved greatly since the US election and offers us an opportunity to create and pursue a long-term EU-US partnership agenda.

The global digital transformation will be a driving force across this agenda and, to make the most of this opportunity, we need rapid political commitments on both sides, the US Congress and the European Parliament. "Because digital capabilities impact virtually every policy sphere where the transatlantic partnership is vital for our futures and for the future of democratic governance around the world, the political commitment we seek must of needs be broad."

Rupert Schlegelmilch seconded the opinion that we need a coordinated political commitment; this is why President Ursula von der Leyen put forward the idea of an EU-US Trade and Technology Council. “What we want is a real top-down approach to coordinate these positions and work towards conversions on standards and regulations, also when it comes to possible frictions” said Mr. Schlegelmilch.

It is important to recognise our strengths and act with them, making sure we promote our openness, a sign of distinction of our markets, the rule of law and the level playing field – these are strengths that the rest of the world actually likes.

Stephen C. Anderson welcomed the new wave of cooperation that will come with the new US administration; the USA and the EU have a deep and enduring partnership on advancing the digital economy and transformation, sharing a positive vision of technology as a force for good, supporting the flourishing of citizens and people all over the world, ensuring technology is used to promote our values and to tackle the most pressing challenges including the climate crisis.

The Biden-Harris administration, assured Mr. Anderson, is absolutely committed to revitalising and raising the level of ambition in the transatlantic relationship, including on digital technology issues. According to Mr. Anderson, two areas in particular can carry good outcomes from this cooperation: creating trustworthy and reliable 5G wireless networks and increasing cooperation on technical standards to promote interoperability, innovation, competition.

Nate Tibbits focused on one key lesson from the Covid crisis: the more people, companies and countries that cooperated, the better they performed. On another note, the European and American economies have long benefitted from a technology diplomacy that is both an extension of our shared values and an economic force multiplier that demonstrates how much these values and the rule of law reward the countries that adopt them.

From Qualcomm’s point of view, the openness of international standards is critical to the future of EU innovation and Europe is a leading innovator with real technical expertise. Moreover, 5g is becoming one core technological foundation on which our economies and societies will be built. The more we can stimulate talent and innovation, the more competitive our economy will be; healthy competition benefits all of us. In this spirit, Qualcomm thinks that the transatlantic partnership is vital.

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