Transatlantic relations: rebooted with technology

By Ian Teunissen van Manen
North America Analyst

Since the Biden Administration took office in January of 2021, it has been clear that one of the main agenda items was the renewal of and emphasis on relations between the US and EU (and Europe as a whole). Another major step to that end was established last week, when high-level personnel from the US and EU gathered at the inaugural meeting of the Trade and Technology Council (TTC).

The TTC was established during the US-EU Summit in June, as a strategic alliance in the face of pressure from the ever-growing Chinese technology sector. The Council seems to be geared towards aligning EU and US positions, facilitating the swift resolution of disputes, and presenting a unified front when confronting China’s technology market influence.

The first meeting, held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 29th, was co-chaired on the US side by Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Representing the EU were European Commission Executive Vice Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis. That Secretary of State Blinken attended on the US side highlights the foreign policy aspect of the technology debate: technology has become an incredibly valuable geopolitical tool (Euronews 2021), capable of undermining elections and bringing about large-scale change with astonishing ease. It is therefore necessary to view technology beyond the lens of industry and economy, and regulate it where necessary while leaving space for innovation. This is the tightrope that the TTC hopes to walk.

This first meeting was a small first step in achieving the TTC’s goals. Discussions were conducted within the Council’s 10 working groups on a variety of subjects including: technology standards, climate and ‘green’ tech, secure supply chains, information and communications technology and services, security and competitiveness, data governance and technological platform regulation, misuse of technology threatening security and human rights, export controls, investment screening, promoting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), use of digital technologies, and global trade challenges (Office of the US Trade Representative, 2021).

Although it is difficult to predict the utility of an international council after only one meeting, the TTC presents an important opportunity for EU-US cooperation on an issue where they are both losing ground in key areas, especially 5G and manufacturing capabilities (Wu, Hoenig and Dormido, 2019). The Council could have intriguing impacts on Transatlantic relations, and it remains to be seen whether the TTC will even be successful in unifying EU and US agendas on the digital front. In particular, the fact that many “players” in the technology industry of the US, such as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, are wary of the EU’s “regulatory agenda” is an early indicator of discord between the two sides (Bertuzzi, 2021).

With the first meeting over, it will be interesting to see how the TTC and EU-US relations develop in the coming months. If you would like to read more on the EU-US Trade and Technology Council Inaugural Joint Statement, please see the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/STATEMENT_21_4951

References:

“What’s on the Agenda for the New EU-US Trade & Tech Council?” euronews. EuroNews, September 29, 2021. https://www.euronews.com/2021/09/28/what-s-on-the-agenda-for-the-new-eu-us-trade-and-technology-council?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%2Beuronews%2Fen%2Feuropa%2B%28euronews%2B-%2Beuropa%2B-%2Ben%29.

“U.S.-E.U. Trade and Technology Council (TTC).” United States Trade Representative. Office of the United States Trade Representative, 2021. https://ustr.gov/useuttc.

Wu, Debby, Henry Hoenig, and Hannah Dormido. “Who’s Winning the Tech Cold War? A China vs. U.S. Scoreboard.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, June 19, 2019. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-us-china-who-is-winning-the-tech-war/.

Bertuzzi, Luca. “EU and US Seek United Western Front to Confront China’s Tech Ascent.” http://www.euractiv.com. EURACTIV, September 30, 2021. https://www.euractiv.com/section/digital/news/eu-and-us-seek-united-western-front-to-confront-chinas-tech-ascent/.

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