I thought it would be useful to share with European friends and colleagues that there is a lively policy debate underway in Washington DC on what is the right balance to strike between cooperating with and competing with the Eurpean Union with regard to Europe's push for "digital sovereignty" or "digital autonomy." The debate was well summed up in a think-tank event held virtually on June 25 by the Atlantic Council, with two esteemed European speakers (Europe Parliament MP Axel Voss and EC Directorate's Rupert Schlegelmilch) and two US speakers (the Atlantic Council's Kenneth Propp and Google's Karan Bhatia).
The US speakers agreed that the EU’s strong push for digital sovereignty is welcome provided EU regulations promote US-EU cooperation, eg on AI research, setting digital and AI standards, IP protection, export controls, digital taxation, etc. But they cautioned that regulations that make it harder for US companies to invest or operate in the EU may harm cooperation on trade and geopolitics.
MP Voss suggested that EU-US disagreements are small compared to the shared values and common interest in preventing China from setting global standards based on Beijing's values. The EU still needs some digital autonomy (eg building an EU cloud, “GAIA-X” to keep EU data in Europe), but also needs to realize that too much “protection” stifles innovation. Director Schlegelmilch said the two sides are close on issues like “light touch” AI regulations, stopping disinformation, and risks of Chinese 5G. “Digital autonomy does not mean turning away from multilateral cooperation. We don't want Fortress Europe".
All speakers agreed that both the US and EU should tone down the “sovereignty rhetoric”, and focus on building on the pretty good record of US-EU COVID-19 cooperation, and give top priority to developing a modus operandi whereby the US and EU can work together to start developing common "values-based" US-EU standards on digital issues and AI, which can then develop into globally accepted standards.
The link to the video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLOIwlz6ttc&feature=youtu.be
US Government experts working in this issue are, I believe, quite open to the possibility of working with EU and Commission counterparts to explore a partnership to develop common "values-based" standards on AI and digital technology. If European colleagues have ideas or suggestions to offer in response to this blog, I would be grateful to receive them.