December 9, 2021
Vice President, Transportation, Infrastructure, and Supply Chain Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The COVID-19 pandemic deeply affected the United States and its economic relationships with other countries. However, it also brought an opportunity to create new policies and partnerships that improved the health of the global economy, particularly when it comes to the United States’ relationship with the European Union.
During the third annual Transatlantic Business Works Summit, leaders from businesses and governments on both sides of the Atlantic gathered to discuss the current challenges and opportunities we are facing, and how to move forward into 2022 and beyond. Here are some key takeaways from the second day of the Summit, which focused on promoting transatlantic economic leadership and innovation between the U.S. and our trade allies.
COVID-19 Highlighted the Need for Greater Resilience in Our Supply Chains
The pandemic shined a light on the challenges of the global supply chain, which is currently experiencing shortages in nearly every industry. In a conversation with Katherine Tai, Ambassador for the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Tai advocated for government leaders to start evaluating their policies on liberalizing trade agreements.
“Our focus is on thinking through how we do trade smarter, especially with respect to these critical supply chains,” said Tai.
“I think that from our perspective there is a lot of nuance and intellectual capital that we need to bring to the conversation. Liberalization may be part of it but I think that we have pursued a really unfettered liberalization policy for the past many years and decades. It is part of what has brought us to this current reality of fragile supply chains.”
Investment in Innovation and Better Digital Regulation Will Lift Up Democracies
In her keynote speech, Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president for Europe Fit for the Digital Age at the European Commission, advocated for the need for technology to help democracies deliver the face of autocracies. Vestager stated that this is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and there are two distinct paths to use technology as a solution.
“First, [to] make sure democracies retain the technological edge, we need massive investment in innovation,” said Vestager. “[The EU’s Recovery Plan] targets unprecedented levels of funding on innovation, covering everything from 5G and fiber rollout, to advanced digital skills. And I know a similar drive is underway in the U.S.”
“Second, in both the European Union and the United States, our duty to the truth is that we create the framework for technology to serve our people and our democracies,” Vestager continued. “We need better digital regulation.”
Global Policymakers Should Use Lessons from COVID-19 to Improve Healthcare Systems
It's difficult to conduct transatlantic business in the face of a pandemic. This is why global leaders need to assess their health care systems to protect the health of their own citizens, as well as the interest of their business population.
Michaela Chen, VP of international government affairs at Boston Scientific, noted that leaders have seen firsthand how healthcare systems impact the global ecosystem, open trade, supply chains, and the Pharmaceutical industry.
“You’ve seen during the pandemic that there have been a number of countries trying to impose export restrictions,” said Chen. “In the U.S., we have seen the previous administration trying to limit the WTO government block coverage for medical devices in order to incentivize companies to come in. We've been able to engage and explain that those restrictions don't work and incentives do.”
“Not being able to sell from European countries to the U.S. and vice versa, wouldn't help. … American companies or European companies,” said Chen. “The Biden administration has ... realize[d] how damaging restrictions are.”