Q&A: TransAtlantic Business Dialogue

October 2, 2012
Categories: Anti-corruption

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Kathryn Hauser, the US Executive Director of the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) an organization of chief executive officers from American and European businesses working together with government leaders to strengthen transatlantic economic relations.

Q/ Tell us about TABD and the organization’s mission.

TABD was convened by the U.S. Government and the European Commission in 1995 to serve as the official dialogue between American and European business leaders and U.S. cabinet secretaries and EU commissioners on the transatlantic economic relationship.  Our goal is to achieve the freest possible exchange of capital, goods, services, people and ideas across the Atlantic.  We advocate for a barrier-free transatlantic market that will serve as a catalyst for global trade and investment.

Q/ What progress has been made?

In 1995, the trade landscape was completely different.  Companies were very much either ‘American’ or ‘European.’  Today, companies and business leaders think in terms of being global and serving customers in every corner of the world. 

Fifteen years ago, the transatlantic relationship was primarily a trade relationship. Today, the cross-Atlantic trade and investment relationship exceeds $5 trillion in commercial sales each year and employs more than 15 million workers.  Investment drives the relationship and, in fact, is three times greater than trade alone.  Because the transatlantic market is so tightly integrated and intertwined, people are surprised to learn of the scale of the cross investment relationship.  Here’s an example of the cross-Atlantic employment of two major companies:  Siemens, traditionally viewed as a ‘German’ company, actually has 60,000 employees in the US; and GE, a US company, employs some 70,000 in the European Union.   We have a transatlantic economy and it is imperative that business and government work together to help stimulate innovation, job creation and economic growth.  

Q/ How have the issues changed?

A key focus of TABD in its early years was on driving regulatory cooperation between the U.S. and EU.  Divergences of the American and European approaches to regulation have created unnecessary or duplicative requirements, slow time-to-market for products and services, and result in added costs for companies.  We have spent a great deal of time over the years trying to better understand each other’s regulatory processes and identifying areas where regulations could be harmonized, made equivalent or streamlined.  Yet, significant regulatory hurdles remain and this continues to be a major issue for the transatlantic business community.

A good example of an issue that has changed over the years is intellectual property protection (IPR).  In 1995, TABD companies in both regions tended to focus on counterfeits and violations of trademarks for luxury and consumer brands.  The scale of global counterfeiting has exploded:  the range of products being counterfeited has expanded from luxury brands to automobiles and helicopter parts, pharmaceuticals and fertilizers, and many, many consumer product categories.   The links to organized crime are well documented, as are the risks to consumer health and safety. 

In response, TABD called for the European Commission and U.S. Government to establish a US-EU Working Group on IPR to ensure close cooperation between the two governments and with the direct participation of business.  The success of this Washington-Brussels discussion led the two governments to extend this cooperation at the level of US and EU embassies in third countries, in particular China and Russia where American and European companies were encountering significant counterfeiting problems.  Participation of government officials in the US-EU Working Group on IPR has also expanded to include non-trade agencies such as customs and justice ministries, reflecting the size and scope of the threat to IP.  TABD member companies continue to be very supportive of the Working Group’s agenda to ensure effective IP protection, focusing particularly on enforcement of trademark, copyright and patent issues. 

This summer TABD member companies held a special session with the US-EU Working Group on IPR to highlight a new and troubling aspect of the IPR issue, namely, the challenges of trade secrets theft.  A number of rapidly emerging countries are widely perceived as directing sophisticated and often successful efforts to steal proprietary information from private companies. The impact of trade secret theft can be devastating, with information that has taken years to innovate, being lost in a matter of minutes.  Over the coming months, TABD will be working with the US-EU Working Group on IPR to elicit perspectives on the multi-faceted nature of this IP challenge and its implications for transatlantic competitiveness.

Q/ What is the current focus of TABD?

In 2007 the U.S.-EU Summit Leaders created the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) to be the high-level forum for addressing transatlantic business issues.  TABD is the official business advisor to the TEC and we have been instrumental in driving the work program of the TEC to address key issues of innovation and competitiveness.

IPR features prominently in our work in the TEC because IPR protection is a critical tool to promote innovation and create American and European manufacturing jobs, which, in turn, will enable a resurgence of American and European economic growth.  Furthermore, IPR protection –because it fosters innovation in the economy –enables the development and uptake of solutions to a range of global challenges with respect to the inter-related issues of the economy, development, environment and health.  The global framework for IPR protection, which is essential to the continued success of TABD member companies’ businesses in meeting the needs of the market and related challenges, is currently under serious threat in several multilateral forums and emerging markets that TABD member companies depend upon to grow their product and service businesses.

In addition to our role in the TEC, TABD is playing an advisory role to the High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth, a body created by the U.S.-EU Summit Leaders in 2011.  This High-Level Working Group is tasked with preparing recommendations due to the Summit Leaders by the end of this year to deepen the transatlantic economic and commercial relationship through ambitious trade, investment and regulatory policy initiatives.  TABD supports the launch on negotiations on a comprehensive transatlantic agreement that liberalizes trade across the board. 

Q/ Any last comments?

Many people would be surprised to learn that transatlantic trade represents 50 percent of the world’s GDP in terms of value. 

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