European Commission Preparing to Release Technology Regulation Plans
As you might imagine, this is being pushed by European phone and wireless companies, and by their supporters in some European countries. Waterworth said that in his opinion some form of the telecom level playing field has a reasonably good chance of being included in the initial proposals that will be formally announced in September. However, offsetting all of this is a joint letter to the EC and to The Netherlands (which currently has the rotating office of President) from 14 of the 28 nations in the EU strongly pushing for a light touch and for avoiding anything that would interfere with the free flow of data between the United States and the EU. The letter was from the United Kingdom and most of Northern Europe, but notably not from two major powers, Germany and France. "We share the vision of a Digital Single Market with a simple, transparent and stable regulatory environment that stimulates digital entrepreneurship and spurs digitization across the economy to the benefit of business and consumers," the letter said. "The Digital Single Market should be characterized by openness towards innovation and new business models, by stronger competition and minimal barriers, and a favorable environment for new entrants." "As both consumers and businesses can benefit significantly from cross-border e-commerce within Europe, we need to step up efforts to make it easier to trade online across the internal market and not impose new burdens on businesses," the letter continued.Still, for U.S. companies, the news isn't all bad. While the European plans will likely mean an additional layer of regulation, it won't prevent the flow of data between the United States and the EU. However, it may make it tougher for smaller businesses to start cross-border operations if they lack the legal expertise to comply with the new (and so far constant) changes in rules. The letter from the 14 countries will certainly reduce any likelihood of protectionism aimed at companies outside of the EU, but it won't eliminate it. The next two years will be a period of compromise and companies with significant operations in Europe will need to keep track of developments in this area. At this point, there's no guarantee that U.S. companies will get the consideration they were used to in the past and this is something they will need to watch for as well.
While the letter from the 14 nations to the EC stressed a limit on barriers to electronic trade within Europe, observers, including Waterworth, say they think such a limit on impediments to international trade will also apply to trade outside Europe. However, recent revelations about U.S. cyber-surveillance in Europe have reduced the level of interest in reducing trade barriers with the U.S.