America and Europe remain far apart on Big Tech Regulation
by Shane Cumberton on 24 May 2022
Last week, EU and US policymakers met in Paris to discuss trade and technology related issues. Despite some progress on Russia, trade, and sustainability, the two sides remain far apart on the question of how to regulate Big Tech.
The second meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) has concluded in in the Parisian suburb of Saclay. The TTC is the transatlantic forum aimed at fostering EU-US cooperation on trade and technology related issues. The meeting was co-chaired by six of Brussels' and Washington DC’s top policymakers and follows the TTC’s inaugural summit in Pittsburgh, United States, in September 2021.
Following the French summit, the transatlantic delegations released a hefty 47-page joint statement detailing the TTC’s progress so far, its next areas of focus and the progress of the TTC’s 10 Working Groups, each of which focuses on a different policy area.
Notably still absent from the TTC’s joint statement was any concrete approach to regulate Big Tech and definitely absent were any references to the EU’s recently finalised Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DSA and DMA are points of contention for many US stakeholders as they would restrain the business practices of the largest players in the EU digital market – most of which are American companies.
However, the delegates announced plans to establish a ‘structured policy dialogue’ regarding transatlantic approaches to Big Tech. While this sounds like a step in the right direction, the dialogue will focus on the issues of content moderation and developing a common analytical framework for ‘identifying foreign information manipulation and interference’.
Expectedly, the joint-statement focused largely on EU-US cooperation in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both sides have jointly committed to continuing cooperative efforts within the TTC that will support Ukraine and further impair the Russian economy. In particular, the TTC noted that global supply chains, already an issue being addressed by the TTC before the war in Ukraine, have been further challenged by the conflict.
The co-chairs agreed to continue pushes in the area of transatlantic trade and investment and to address trade barriers both bilaterally and with third counties. An offshoot of this is the TTC’s continued support of SMEs gaining increased access to technology. The Council’s Working Group 9, tasked with promoting the use of digital tools by SMEs, has recently published its guidelines for cybersecurity.
Sustainability remains a focus for the Council on paper, but no major progress has been achieved in this area quite yet. The TTC reaffirmed its commitment to increasing the uptake of sustainable technologies and continued cooperation in reducing the prominence of goods and services that are ‘greenhouse gas intensive’. In this regard, the Council has agreed to jointly map policies and create a catalogue of best practices on ‘green public procurement’. The TTC will work towards an aligned approach for greenhouse gas lifecycle assessments for products.
Next on the agenda
The TTC’s 10 Working Groups will continue carrying out coordinated work in their dedicated policy areas. Outside of this, the TTC has announced the formation of a new sub-group on AI which will develop a joint roadmap on evaluation and measurement tools for trustworthy AI and risk management – in line with the OECD’s recommendation on AI.
The delegates announced the creation of an EU-US Strategic Standardisation Information (‘SSI’) mechanism to share information on developing international technology standards.
While no date for the third EU TTC meeting has been announced yet, delegates have said that they will reconvene before the end of 2022.
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