After a shaky lead up, the first U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) meeting in Pittsburgh got the TTC off the starting blocks, but that was the easiest part. The hard work lies ahead in traversing the obstacle course and getting to the finish line. Officials need to show progress in bringing the post-summit joint statement (and its ten working groups (WG)) to life before TTC principals reconvene again in the spring of 2022. To make progress, both sides will need to show that they’re willing to compromise where they can and step out of their comfort zone where they must on new issues and forms of cooperation. Looming over deliberations is the skepticism based on recent bilateral turmoil and previous efforts at building transatlantic cooperation efforts, which started with grand visions of cooperation but ran into the reality of varying expectations.
Action and progress, especially on managing transatlantic data flows, will be key to removing this skepticism. While not formally part of the TTC agenda, it’ll still be judged on the outcome of negotiations for a new Privacy Shield agreement. Negotiations are focusing on how to remedy one of the principal defects identified by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)—a lack of independent oversight and redress in the U.S. system for Europeans who suspect the National Security Agency surveilled them. The outcome will likely be administrative (not legislative)—a non-executive U.S. agency such as the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board acting in combination with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (similar to U.S. administrative law judges). A key question is whether this solution is permanent enough (and thus defendable in the CJEU). U.S. officials telling firms to stay in Privacy Shield is hopefully a sign that a deal is almost done.