Maintaining a Dynamic Transatlantic Digital Economy in a Divided World

Leaders in the tech sector examine risks of decoupling between the U.S. and EU and provide solutions to protect the transatlantic economy.


Air Date: December 8, 2021

Moderator: Ryan Heath, Senior Editor and Host of Global Translations, Politico

Featured Guests: Rita Balogh, Chief of Staff, Government Affairs & Public Policy, Google, Brian Hendricks, VP of Policy and Government Relations for the Americas, Nokia, C.J. Mahoney, Deputy General Counsel, U.S. International Trade and Azure, Microsoft, Chris Padilla, Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs, IBM

Data continues to be an important topic in the larger conversation of relations between the United States and the European Union. With an increase in projected technological innovations in the coming year, the U.S. and the EU will play key roles in ensuring an uninterrupted flow of data internationally.

But it’s not always easy for countries with different values to come to an agreement on something as precious as data sharing. It’s up to leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to find agreed-upon solutions for common problems that arise or otherwise face the consequences.

Here’s how tech sector leaders believe both of these world powers can move forward and work together to maintain a strong transatlantic digital economy.

The Inherent Risks of Technology Decoupling Between the U.S. and EU

A disagreement between two major players in the technology industry comes with risks that leaders of larger companies want to avoid. There are things to be done on both sides to come to an easier consensus.

“I think it's really important that the EU realize that there's urgency in this situation,” explained C.J. Mahoney, deputy general counsel, U.S. International Trade and Azure at Microsoft. “I think the United States really needs to embrace the motivations that have led a number of people in the EU to embrace the concept of tech sovereignty.”

Brian Hendricks, VP of policy and government relations for the Americas at Nokia, agreed: “Both sides have to recognize that localization pushes don't help anybody in this discussion,” he said.

Prioritizing Research and Innovation in Emerging Economies Is Key to Positive Change

Moderator Ryan Heath, senior editor and author of the Global Translations newsletter at Politico, noted that while discussing ways that change can happen is important, actionable items will help push these changes forward.

In response, Rita Balogh, chief of staff, government affairs and public policy at Google, asked whether we can, “look at ... the obstacles for [career] certification to ... pick up and reach a broader segment of the population.”

“I suggest that the first priority should be to prioritize research and innovation in emerging technologies,” added Chris Padilla, vice president of government and regulatory affairs at IBM. “I think the EU and the U.S. should work together on principles for the ethical advancement of AI, but also work together on how they could jointly do innovation and research in semiconductors.”

The U.S. and EU May Be Able to Agree on ‘Low-Hanging’ Issues to Move Tech Relations Forward

Reaching an agreement is integral to the road forward, although many experts believe that it might take something drastic to get the ball rolling in foreign tech relations.

“Unfortunately, the history of this issue is that in most cases, it has taken some sort of court decision in Europe to result in changes,” said Padilla.

Hendricks agreed, but was able to see an optimistic approach to the problem as well.

“I think there are some low-hanging issues that the EU and the U.S. can agree on that would get some positive momentum here,” he said, citing 6G research as an example of an area where both are engaged and could potentially find common ground.

Tech Companies Don’t Necessarily Have to Wait for Governments to Make Progress

Individual companies may not be the driving force behind foreign technology agreements, but they do have a role to play in helping move processes forward. Mahoney noted that tech companies can and should take initiatives on their own to make progress in this area.

“I don't think that the tech sector has to wait for governments,” Mahoney said.