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We can power our startups through a strong transatlantic partnership

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Just over 150 years ago and after many unsuccessful attempts, a transatlantic cable connected North America and Europe for the first time. President James Buchanan and Queen Victoria exchanged pleasantries, signaling a new form of global communications. This was the very beginning of developing a digital policy for the United States and our neighbors across the continent.

Fast forward to present day: the technological advances over the past few decades have made the reliance on intercontinental cables obsolete, but the excitement and challenges it sparked at the time is echoed in the way governments on both sides of the Atlantic continue to cope with, and question, innovation and change in existing technology.

{mosads}In 2017, almost two centuries later, we can spread information with the touch of a finger through a diverse set of networks. While the initial transatlantic cable was a historic undertaking, innovators have now advanced technology to the point where a nation’s borders are no longer an obstacle to success. Or so we think.


Though the digital economy is global, national borders still have the power to halt progress in its tracks. With the absence of a regulatory environment that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation, startups will suffer. This is why a strong transatlantic partnership is so critical.

With the explosion of big data, cloud computing and the “internet of things,” access to data flows are critical to spurring innovation and competing on a global scale. This is particularly true of startups who rely on their creativity and the power of technology to scale their ideas and products at a marginal cost.

The free flow of data embodies this strength across borders — if startups had to set up storage and technical facilities in all the markets in which they are active, it would destroy the advantage they have gained through technology. Unfortunately, unlike larger, more established businesses, interruptions to data flows can result in startups shuttering their doors without the financial resources to weather such interruptions.

In 2016, 1.78 million startups were founded globally. Young companies account for almost 20 percent of new jobs in the United States. By lowering the barriers to entry for these companies and promoting policies that foster entrepreneurship, we’re creating more jobs and growing our global economy.

Put simply, startups think global from day one. So should regulators. A primary point of contention historically has centered on privacy. After 15 years of operating under the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, the European Court of Justice deemed the principles invalid. In response, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the European Commission, and Swiss Administration partnered together to quickly establish a new set of guidelines for transatlantic data flows of personally identifiable information, known as the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework.

The Privacy Shield program provides companies on both sides of the Atlantic with the mechanisms needed to exchange personal data across the pond. Administered by the U.S. International Trade Administration, this voluntary program is critical to our economy as it currently supports more than $300 billion in transatlantic commerce and serves nearly 2,000 U.S. companies. But there is still more to be done to ensure this effort leads to a reliable and lasting framework for data transfers across the Atlantic.

The U.S. needs to continue to invest in and support the Privacy Shield program to foster a strong transatlantic partnership. Together, we should be taking the lead on developing innovative digital policy that allows entrepreneurs on both continents to thrive.

The health of our startup ecosystem depends on the U.S. and EU setting forward-thinking, innovation-friendly policies that allow entrepreneurs to innovate, reach new audiences, and create jobs. That is why we are once again pleased that members of the European Parliament will join U.S. policymakers here in our nation’s capital for Transatlantic Week 2017, a week dedicated to sharing ideas and building consensus for a forward-thinking transatlantic partnership.

These kinds of discussions are critical in order to develop policies that promote innovation, entrepreneurship, openness, and growth across the Atlantic. We should learn a lesson from the entrepreneurs of the 1850s and strive for a more connected world, not one walled off by invisible borders.

Melissa Blaustein is founder of Allied for Startups, a global network of startup policy associations whose goal is to make the voice of startups heard in government.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Business economy European Union international affairs Jobs Startups Technology United States

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