Counterparties: Trading chickens and data
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The EU and the US are working on a trade deal that Reuters calls the â€śmost ambitious since the founding of the World Trade Organization in 1995â€ť.
Some of the hurdles are obvious. With tariffs already pretty low, talks will have to focus on things like agricultural subsidies and food standards,Â traditional sticking points between the two blocs. The EU and the Â US have, for example, been arguing about how to wash chickens since 1997. Thatâ€™sÂ $300m of annual revenue that the US poultry industry will never see (I’ll spare you the corny puns). Still, thatâ€™s not going to be a dealbreaker: theÂ EUâ€™s trade commissioner has said that â€śthis is not a negotiation that has as a prime aim to find… a solution for chlorine chickenâ€ť.
The biggest stumbling block may instead be in an area where the EU and the US generally seem to be in agreement: technology. Europe looks enviously at Silicon Valley: politicians fromÂ Berlin to Tallinn are pushing their own â€śsilicon [silly local reference]â€ť. But Brussels has very different ideas about regulating the industry from Washington, which some say amounts to â€śdigital protectionismâ€ť.
While chickens have to physically cross borders, clear customs and adhere to hygiene standards, data can flow freely. It can also, the FT reports, be seized by the US under the Patriot Act. BAE, Britainâ€™s defense contractor, for instance, had to abandon plans to use Microsoftâ€™s Office 365 because data protection agencies worried the information could be accessed by the US. Such rules act as pretty effective trade barriers.
The two potential partners seem to have conflicting urges. One is Americaâ€™s obsession with security. The Patriot Act, introduced after 9/11, allows data seizures without the consent of the user.
On the other side of the pond is Europeâ€™s fixation with privacy. The continentâ€™s first major undertaking was the 1995 â€śdata protection directiveâ€ť, which is EU-speak for member statesÂ implement the rule in their own fashion.
Last year, Brussels set in motion the process to introduce a data protection regulation, which differs from a directive in that it becomes applicable the moment it is approved by the European Parliament. Big tech companies have lobbied Brussels to ease up, but to little effect. The US Department of Commerce has tried its hardest toÂ soothe the European Commissionâ€™s worries.
TheÂ US ambassador to the EU warns that â€śdifferences between the EU data protection legislation and the US privacy protection regime should not be allowed to hurt EU-US tradeâ€ť. Still, no trade pact, no matter how big, will induce Congress to water down the Patriot Act. The whole thing looks like turning into a big game of chicken â€” with or without the chlorine. — Leo Mirani
Leo Mirani has worked at The Economist and had written for The Independent, The Guardian and AFP. His reporting interests include technology, innovation, South Asia and the European project.
On to todayâ€™s links:
Elon Musk accuses NYT reporter of fabricating Tesla review facts – Tesla
“All of the profound failings of what Ezra Klein is have very little to do with who Ezra Klein is” – Freddy Deboer
The Knight Foundation regrets paying Lehrer $20,000 to talk about plagiarism – Knight Foundation