The United States and the European Union are scheduled to meet in Pittsburgh on Sept. 29 to start the new Trade and Technology Council, TTC. Ambitious transatlantic cooperation on technology issues is long overdue. That is why we should proceed with purpose.
The TTC was set up to build on our shared democratic values and the world’s largest economic relationship. Its aim is to take concrete steps to ensure trade and technology policies truly deliver for people.
Digitalization is one area where we simply cannot afford to wait. We have urgently realized on both sides of the Atlantic how vital digitalization and digital policies have become to our economies and societies.
It is no longer a question of mere consumer solutions; it has to do with critical business and public infrastructure, and, ultimately, supply chain security and even national security. Technology is at the heart of today’s global competition.
This fierce, global competition underscores the value of mutual trust and level playing field. Without trust, investments and innovations will take much longer to materialize.
To build trust, we need common technology standards and ways to protect people and businesses from the misuse of technology. Ultimately, it is a question of human rights as well as property rights.
Secure 5G is essential for people and businesses
The U.S. is planning to make significant investments in its 5G network. From Finland’s experience, I can commend this approach. Reliable, safe and affordable connections are essential for both people and business.
COVID lockdowns have brought to surface inequalities in internet access. Connectivity is a factor in social cohesion.
Finland is known as a leader in internet connectivity and mobile technologies. Connectivity has improved the productivity of both public and private sectors.
Digitalization of health care and financial services, together with a digital identity, have generated endless possibilities.
In many ways, Finland provides a real-life testing platform for new technologies.
None of that would be possible without trust and fair competition.
Going forward, we want to see more standardization and cross-Atlantic business cooperation on 5G, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.
We should also make joint investments in 6G research and development. That is why we urgently need more transatlantic cooperation, not less.
Fair competition is key
Dependency on any one technology or service provider is never sustainable. Ultimately, we all benefit from healthy and fair competition. To keep competition fair, we have to look at financing.
One could argue that state subsidies for connectivity and digitalization projects impede competition and favor state-backed providers.
Theoretically, this should be a matter for the World Trade Organization and its anti-subsidy procedures. In practice, we know that international trade policies are not the solution to all problems. At least not until the WTO rules are updated.
Therefore, we need the EU and U.S. to lead by adopting smart innovation and industrial policies, and look at intelligent ways to finance critical programs.
The key is to take a holistic approach, which appreciates full complexity of value chains and manages risks effectively.
I suggest we roll our sleeves and get to work in Pittsburgh.
Ville Skinnari is Finland’s Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade.