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A Golden Opportunity for Transatlantic Digital Leadership

The European Union’s plan to create a Digital Single Market (DSM), which would reduce barriers to digital trade and innovation within Europe, is at a pivotal phase. In the coming months, EU officials will hold a wide-ranging conversation with companies, public interest groups, and individual citizens regarding the details of this ambitious project. This week, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Günther Oettinger, took an important step forward on the DSM strategy by visiting Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. to begin these discussions in earnest.

ITI is encouraged by the efforts that Commissioner Oettinger and his EU colleagues are making to understand the importance of global tech firms to Europe’s digital future. As the global voice of the world’s leading technology companies, we recognize the tremendous potential of a well-crafted DSM strategy to boost growth, innovation, and job creation within Europe, across the Atlantic, and around the world.

There have been challenges in the transatlantic digital relationship in recent years, yet the DSM initiative provides an opportunity for tech firms and European policymakers to put their relationship onto more positive footing. ITI will do our part to demonstrate the global tech industry’s value as a partner for Europe in crafting rules that both promote innovation and advance important public interests.

To be sure, the conversation will be a complicated one, and the tech sector will continue to be forthright in expressing its concerns. For example, the Commission’s assessment of “online platforms” appeared to some as having been designed to diminish the influence of tech companies headquartered in the United States. We will press EU officials to clearly identify the specific business conduct that concerns them, and to rigorously evaluate whether there are any risks to consumers or citizens that are not already addressed by the EU’s existing competition, data protection, or other laws.

Additionally, the Commission’s approach to technical standards has raised questions about the prospects for digital integration across the Atlantic. The Commission notes that “industry stakeholders decide ‘bottom-up’ in which areas to develop standards” and that “this is increasingly taking place outside of Europe, undermining our long-term competitiveness.” We will continue to work with the Commission and other European stakeholders to emphasize the essential role that voluntary, industry-led global standards can and do play an effective role in promoting growth, innovation, and competition in Europe, the United States, and around the world.

To be clear, the global tech industry has a strong interest in ensuring that the EU has the necessary tools to advance important public interests, whether to protect personal information, shield young people from inappropriate content, or prevent anti-competitive market behavior. We will work with the Commission to advance these public interests in the DSM strategy, just as we are doing in negotiating a high-standard Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and a revised Safe Harbor Framework.

Like these other initiatives, the DSM is ultimately much bigger than Europe and much bigger even than the transatlantic relationship: it is an opportunity for the EU and the United States to help craft the rules of the digital game for the next generation. Together, both sides can show leadership in promoting principles of openness and fairness to governments around the world that do not yet embrace them.

The EU and the United States have far more in common on technology issues than they have differences. ITI and our member companies stand ready to work as partners with officials on both sides of the Atlantic to achieve our mutual objectives of greater transatlantic digital integration, and thereby set a new gold standard for innovation policy around the world.

Public Policy Tags: Trade & Investment