At the beginning of the year, the phrase “America is back” started to emerge. As Joe Biden took the presidency, many saw a new beginning for the transatlantic relationship, his arrival ushering in a possible era of renewed cooperation. With the changing geopolitical landscape, technology has been brought to the forefront of global politics. While the increasing importance of China should promote collaboration between the EU and the US, there are still many issues that divide the two actors. How will tech policy influence the transatlantic relationship, and can the EU and the US set aside their differences to create a unified front?
To address these issues, Access Partnership hosted a panel on how tech policy will influence the partnership in the short and long term. AI, the DMA and data flows can bring both collaboration, but may also provoke further division.
Transatlantic Partnership is Back
The first issue discussed during the panel was the the transatlantic relationship itself. Panellists approached the topic with cautious optimism, seeing the EU-US summit as a sign of renewed cooperation, especially in the technology and trade domains. There was agreement that collaboration on these issues, and many more, is needed if the EU and US want to show a unified, democratic front in a changing international world.
The panel highlighted that out of the many areas in which the EU and US can and should collaborate, the issue of a global tax for multinationals stands out. The world has changed a significant amount in the last few decades and a new global tax system needs to be created in order to keep up with these changes. Panellists agreed that the work by the G7 and OECD on the global minimum tax rate can create a stable system. Moreover, establishing one unified minimum tax for multinationals should abolish any unilateral discriminatory taxes, like digital taxes. However, the participants did emphasize that this tax system should treat digital and non-digital corporations in the same way.
Transatlantic Data Flows
Another major issue discussed was the matter of data flows between the EU and US. Panellists underlined that data flows are not solely a tech issue, but are crucial across different sectors and jurisdictions. Data flows are on the agenda of many different summits, negotiations are productive and the matter is being addressed, which gives some optimism for a future post-Schrems framework. With both jurisdictions using the OECD Privacy Principles, there is a need to translate them into practice. There has to be interoperability between the two systems and how they implement the OECD Principles. While, for the short term, an adequacy agreement between the US and EU is needed, the panellists agreed that a post-adequacy multinational system addressing data flows is crucial.
The panel also addressed the issue of the European Digital Markets Act, agreeing that the Act should be proportional and fair. The one-size fits all approach is not adequate as an answer, as companies use different models, while adopting remedies from one antitrust case against one business to address another case is not an efficient way of dealing with the issue.
AI has become a crucial aspect of policy debate in both the EU and US and presents an obvious place to start transatlantic collaboration. Panellists agreed that there is room for convergence regarding AI legislation. The EU AI Act raises some good points, especially with its focus on high-risk applications. It was also agreed by those participating that there is convergence between the US and EU on risk-management approaches regarding AI. The issue of AI investments was also emphasized, highlighting that there is still much room for cooperative public investments, especially in AI technology that does not hamper fundamental and democratic rights.
Trade and Technology Council
The question on whether to address the issues of tech and trade through one transatlantic council is appropriate. There was agreement that there are benefits in combining these issues together, highlighting the fact that it is increasingly difficult to divide technology from trade and other sectors. Other sectors rely on tech aspects, such as data transfer, to function; therefore, there is a need to address issues that impact a variety of sectors simultaneously.
Digital Services Act
Lastly, the panel addressed the issue of the European DSA. There was speculation that, for now, convergence between the US and the EU on this issue will not be possible, especially since there is still not complete convergence in the EU itself. Panellists also highlighted that more clarity was needed from the EU regarding content moderation.
The panel provided a much-needed discussion on the future of the transatlantic partnership, especially in the domain of tech policy. The proposal for a new global tax for multinationals, the need for AI regulation and the Trade and Technology Council are all aspects that can bring the EU and the US together, with panellists seeing a lot of convergence on these issues. Yet, the problems surrounding the DMA and DSA are still a relevant issue for both actors across the Atlantic. The issue of data flows is still to be completely determined, but there is hope that the partners may bridge their views in some way.
Nonetheless, the panel did focus on the need for the EU and the US to settle their issues on tech policy, if they want to create a unified, democratic front in the new geopolitical landscape.