By Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs
A free-trade agreement between the United States and the European Union is crucial to our joint economic future.
Ewa Björling, Sweden’s trade minister, recently highlighted a Swedish study demonstrating the potential value of a free-trade agreement between the United States and the European Union (“The transatlantic market’s potential”, 24-30 January). The case for a free-trade agreement is likely to be underscored by a joint EU-US study expected to be released soon, and in late January Karel De Gucht, the European trade commissioner, indicated that Brussels and Washington will recommend talks.
Speaking on behalf of AT&T, I believe that working together on ambitious, common objectives is crucial to our joint economic future. We face a number of common challenges: our economies are struggling, while others are emerging as economic power-houses. Technology and society are changing rapidly.
I would also add a lesson from my time in public service, which included serving in the White House under two presidents, both of whom placed the highest value on our transatlantic partnership. That is, when the US and EU put into practice sound and effective solutions to common policy problems, these not only advance our own economies, they can also become standards useful to other regions.
Transatlantic trade is currently worth €2 billion a day in trade. Around €2 trillion is invested by both sides. About 15 million jobs depend directly on transatlantic trade. The multiplier effect of a freeing trade in this area would be enormous. Removing tariffs and regulatory barriers would save millions of euros that could be reinvested in modernising our economies.
We should focus on important win-win drivers of growth. One such area is the digital economy: our competitiveness will continue to be driven by technological innovation in the digital economy and the increases in productivity that it can bring.
To tap the potential of the digital economy, we need to get the relationship between innovation and regulation right. Delivering new communications capabilities requires enormous private-sector capital. We therefore need a policy framework that makes investments in innovation possible, and rewards and protects those investments.
Growth has depended on innovation more in the transatlantic economy than in other parts of the world. But policymakers too must innovate. It is clear that regulation both in the US and the EU is outmoded. We should join forces to promote a healthy regulatory climate for communications technology. On both sides of the Atlantic, telecom companies are looking to policymakers and regulators to create a transatlantic market without borders, and also to modernise their approach to communications regulation.