Brussels, 18 December 2010 - The Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) has given a significant boost to business between the EU and US by creating a more robust and efficient economic partnership. The TEC which met on Friday in Washington and brought together four European Commissioners and leading US government representatives took the first concrete steps to ensure the TEC process creates a forward-looking business environment that reduces regulatory barriers and encourages innovation, shared standards and high-tech business.
The EU and US leaderships agreed at the recent EU-US Summit in Lisbon to make the TEC central to their shared vision for growth and jobs. Participants signed an agreement on common standards of electronic health records and a declaration on energy efficiency. They also kicked off an initiative for electronic cars and related infrastructure and launched a joint website against counterfeiting. The TEC further identified key areas for joint activities in the innovation sector and discussed ways to ensure secure trade and strengthen the customs cooperation between the two partners.
"In the current economic climate, it is evident is that the EU and the US should give a renewed focus to their transatlantic trade relationship to restore growth." said Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. "We have agreed to reduce the burden of regulations that far too often 'get in the way' of us doing business together and make high-tech and innovative business key to our strategic vision for more jobs and a better standard of living for all our citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.”
The TEC looked at how the EU and the US can better cooperate on new regulations early on in the process. They agreed to a set of agreed regulatory principles and to focus work on a number of priority areas, such as energy efficiency, e-health, nutrional labeling, electric vehicles and related infrastructure.
For instance, they agreed on a common approach regarding electronic health record systems. European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes and US Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius signed a Memorandum of Understanding which stresses the need for a joint vision on internationally recognised standards for such systems and increased competences and mobility of IT professionals.
The importance of innovation as a driver of economic growth and job creation was also highlighted at the TEC. The participants therefore agreed to deepen transatlantic cooperation in this area and tasked the Innovation Action Partnership, an expert-led mechanism, with overseeing this work. Three areas will be focused upon: access to raw materials, the development of eco-friendly products and innovation policy. The EU and US furthermore agreed that potential areas for future collaboration included nanotechnologies, green procurement, and social innovation.
Another topic discussed was the role of customs in safeguarding against security threats. For both the EU and the USA, protecting their citizens by improving supply chain security is of paramount importance. Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta and US Commissioner for Customs Border Protection Alan Bersin welcomed the good progress made in the move towards EU-US mutual recognition of authorised economic operators' ("trusted traders"). They called for this to be fully in place by 31 October 2011.
Finally, the TEC saw the launch of a joint website against counterfeiting. The portal aims to help EU and US companies to fully utilize the intellectual property rights related resources and tools developed on both sides of the Atlantic. It will enable small and medium enterprises to protect their brands, trademarks and patents before entering foreign markets and to take preventive action. It will also offer advice, 'country toolkits' on IPR protection in more than 20 markets around the world and tailor-made guides for various sectors including textiles, leather, footwear, and furniture.
The TEC was set up in 2007 to guide and stimulate transatlantic economic convergence. It is currently co-chaired by Commissioner De Gucht and US Deputy National Security Adviser for international economic affairs, Michael Froman. The regulatory work of the TEC focuses on economically relevant issues of mutual interest, in order to identify issues where EU-US cooperation could produce results in a reasonable time horizon and to engage in a strategic discussion on selected global economic issues.
The EU was represented by the European Commission's Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for European Digital Agenda, as well as by Commissioners Karel De Gucht (Trade), Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (Research, Innovation and Science), and Algirdas Šemeta (Taxation and Customs Union). Participants from the US included Deputy National Security Advisor Mike Froman, Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius and Deputy Energy Secretary David Poneman.
The TEC is currently the only EU-US high-level forum in which economic issues can be discussed in a coherent and coordinated manner. It brings together a wide range of ongoing economic cooperation activities and is a platform which can give political guidance and direction. At the same time, the TEC is a political forum where participants can explore joint approaches to strategic global economic questions.
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