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Competing With China

Stop Wrangling Over Tech, US and EU Urged

The U.S. and EU should stop squabbling over tech issues or risk having China or another authoritarian government step into the gap, speakers told an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation webinar. High on President Joe Biden's agenda for the summit in Brussels next week is discussion of the relationship, including whether the EU should stop attacking America's tech sector and Biden should refrain from giving away too much to make amends to Europe for the previous administration's attitude, said ITI President Robert Atkinson Tuesday. He accused Europe of deploying a range of tools to hobble U.S. tech giants, such as the Digital Services Act and limits on cross-border data flows, and urged Biden to aggressively defend America while seeking stronger trans-Atlantic ties.

The EU and U.S. are at an uneven point, said Atlantic Council Distinguished Fellow Frances Burwell: Europe is active on these issues while it's unclear where Biden or Congress wants to go. The U.S. must pick its battles with the EU and be clear about what it wants, Burwell said. The summit is a great opportunity to reset the EU-U.S. relationship, said President Paul Hofheinz of think tank The Lisbon Council. There are two forms of government in the world -- democracies and one-party states -- and no one is thinking hard enough about how to regulate the neutral technology that sits between them, he said.

The discussion should focus on China, said Center for European Policy Analysis President Alina Polyakova. This year will be important for seeing who sets normalization rules for technology and where, she said. Creating a level playing field for European companies is a top priority for the EU, but that will come from stimulating innovation, not regulation, she said. The "big gorilla in the room" is the Digital Markets Act, which attacks U.S. companies, she said. She urged the EU to rethink its digital agenda, including Privacy Shield and the DMA, and called for sides to cooperate more.

The two regions potentially can meet in some areas, such as on facial recognition technology and the need for a U.S. federal privacy law, said Hofheinz: "We need to talk to each other humbly, respectfully and honestly." One problem with the U.S. approach is that no official "owns" the issue, which is spread across various agencies, said Polyakova. On the other hand, Europe is more thoughtful, strategic and sophisticated about policy, said Atkinson.

The White House, EU delegation to the U.S. and Chinese Embassy in Washington didn't comment Wednesday. ITIF didn't answer a query on EU and U.S. reaction to the panel.