Almost one year ago, the United States and the European Union took a decisive step to reinvigorate a much-needed transatlantic relationship that had been mired in commercial and political rifts. The accumulation of unprecedented crises – such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing impact of climate change – prompted both sides to foster a new partnership based on their shared values. The launch of the U.S.-EU Technology and Trade Council (TTC) in June 2021 marked a turning point in transatlantic relations which IBM welcomed.
Yet establishing a dialogue is not enough. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a tragic reminder that the post-WWII world order, built on shared rules-based values and open markets, can no longer be taken for granted. In this new global context, the TTC must significantly step up and move beyond discussions to focused and concrete actions.
As EU and U.S. government representatives prepare to gather in Saclay, France, for the second ministerial TTC meeting in May, IBM urges both sides to accelerate their trade and tech agendas and hammer out concrete deliverables which tackle our shared challenges. This means refocusing TTC resources and priorities on the most pressing issues and putting aside regional protectionist reflexes to achieve open, transatlantic strategic autonomy based on the following principles:
Secure sustainable transatlantic data transfers:
IBM welcomes the announcement by Presidents Biden and Von der Leyen that the U.S. and the EU have reached a political agreement on a successor to the Privacy Shield. Without uninterrupted data flows on both sides of the Atlantic, none of the TTC objectives can be achieved. We call on both sides to take this agreement to the finish line by delivering a robust and sustainable mechanism for the free flow of data across the Atlantic, and the legal certainty businesses need in the digital economy.
Commit to a non-discrimination principle:
IBM fully supports the U.S. and the EU’s objective to strengthen their technology capabilities and the resilience of their supply chains. For example, we welcomed the US and the EU Chips Acts to ensure both sides’ respective ability to rely on effective semiconductor infrastructure.
However, as the U.S. and the EU legitimately work to build such capabilities in this area – and others such as AI, cloud computing, or 5G – we are concerned that protectionist tendencies may harm transatlantic trade and prosperity. While it is understandable that governments on both sides seek to support domestic investments and innovation in these critical areas, we urge TTC officials to ensure those approaches remain committed to full transatlantic participation. Excluding each other from domestic markets or creating a subsidy race will not engender a successful TTC process.
Prioritize concrete deliverables for research and open trade in critical technologies:
The TTC provides an ideal platform to agree on concrete deliverables, particularly in the key areas where transatlantic action is urgently needed to face the challenges posed by other global powers and systemic rivals. IBM has outlined a list of recommendations and deliverables on how the EU and the U.S. could establish an ambitious research partnership framework, and a new trade pact to enhance economic and security cooperation, specifically aiming at agreeing on standard protocols around the development and use of critical technologies.
Support all businesses and consumers vs. the interests of a few:
The TTC should not serve as a complaint mechanism to criticize legitimate regulatory efforts aiming to create fairer and safer digital markets. When disinformation online reaches critical levels, and when both the EU and the U.S. are increasingly aligned on how to tackle unfair competition in the digital world, the TTC should serve instead as a key platform to agree on a common approach to addressing these issues. IBM regrets to see this framework being unnecessarily used to spread the misleading view that some legislative initiatives, such as the EU Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, deliberately target US companies. Let’s not allow a small group of platform companies to derail US-EU cooperation for their own interests.
Expand collaboration with other like-minded nations:
The TTC should develop concrete deliverables in close collaboration with other like-minded nations, such as Japan, Australia, the UK, Canada, South Korea, and India. It is essential to associate such partners in tightening export controls, coordinating investment screening mechanisms, securing global supply chains, or developing common regulatory approaches to emerging technologies like AI. Such closer collaboration will enable like-minded nations to reduce divergences of approach and better positioned to defend their values in global institutions.
These past few months should serve as a wake-up call for the transatlantic relationship and worldwide allies. The EU and the U.S. must overcome their differences to remain the engine of global growth and maintain a leading role in global trade and the digital economy in the years to come. The TTC is an ideal foundation for this partnership to achieve this objective. This is an opportunity that both the EU and the US cannot miss.
-By Amelie Coulet
Senior Manager, IBM Government and Regulatory Affairs, Europe
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