EU opens Silicon Valley office to take on US tech

EU opens Silicon Valley office to take on US tech

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

The European Union has opened its first office in Silicon Valley, with commissioner Thierry Breton addressing various issues with EU-US tech relations around data and AI.

“I am very glad to be here today in Silicon Valley, a global centre for digital technology and innovation, to officially inaugurate the new European Union office in San Francisco,” he said. “Our presence here reflects our commitment to strengthen transatlantic technological cooperation and to drive the global digital transformation.”

He is meeting the CEOs of Nvidia, OpenAI and Anthropic today as well as Google and Meta.

“I am here in California to explain the new European framework, and help US tech firms get ready for it. I am also here to debunk a few myths about Europe’s approach to technology, and share some thoughts on how much we have in common on both sides of the Atlantic.”

AI and data are key issues, coming after the US Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS Act caused trade frictions. “A global tech race is taking place, and we all want our share of it,” he said.

“We know that some large online platforms use their dominance to give their own products and services an unfair advantage and hold back competitors from doing business and creating added value and jobs. And Artificial Intelligence raises a wide range of concerns about bias and discrimination, privacy, security, social surveillance. That’s the situation in the digital space,” he said.

“We can’t stop innovation – and we don’t want to. Because technology also equals progress and opportunity. Technology has been “stress testing” our society. It is now time to turn the tables. That is what we are doing in Europe, the largest integrated, democratic digital market with more than 440 million citizens,” he said.

He points out that the US and EU are taking different approaches to managing the challenges of technology.

“While the US is developing its answers to the profound societal and economic questions raised by technology, including state-level initiatives such as the California bill on AI or the Montana ban of TikTok, in Europe we are organising our digital space at the scale of a continent. All companies operating in Europe – including US firms – will soon have to apply our new rules on AI, online platforms and data, everywhere in Europe,” he said.

Is Europe anti-innovation?

“Our work in Europe, notably on AI, has drawn a lot of attention – including here in the US – and understandably so, since we were the first jurisdiction in the world to work on AI rules,” said Breton. “Some are trying to depict these efforts as “anti-innovation”. I don’t know if these are delaying tactics or they simply haven’t read the fine print of our proposals. We are approaching the finishing line, as the final law will be passed before the end of the year.”

“The AI Act follows a risk-based approach, regulating only where strictly necessary: when the safety and fundamental rights of EU citizens are at stake. It offers a clear and predictable legal framework for AI developers, and ultimately promotes trust in AI, allowing consumers, businesses and society at large to confidently use and invest in innovation.

“My visit here in Silicon Valley is part of my efforts to explain the upcoming European rules on AI, and work with AI developers to anticipate their implementation through an AI Pact.”

Is Europe anti-US?

Europe believes is one step ahead in organising its digital space, partly because there was some catching up to do in integrating the digital single market.

“With the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, Europe has become the first jurisdiction in the world where online platforms no longer benefit from a “free pass” and set their own rules. They are now regulated entities in the same way financial institutions are,” he said.

“These rules are not against anyone. They are for a safer online environment where hate speech and cyberbullying have no place. For online marketplaces without counterfeit or dangerous products. For fair competition so that large, systemic platforms do not abuse their gatekeeper position. Compliance with European rules is not a punishment. It’s an opportunity to tap into our European Single Market,” he said.

Is Europe protectionist?

Europe is aiming to develop neutral cloud services and data infrastructure, but the new regulations to open up both public and industrial data in Europe have been described as protectionist.

“Our European data strategy is to unlock a wealth of big data and set out how that data should be shared, stored and processed. This will benefit all businesses – European, American and others alike. They will be able to share and exchange data easily and safely. They will be able to use IoT data to develop innovative services. And they will be able to offer new cloud services.

“These opportunities come with a set of rules: no lock-ins when switching between cloud services or when a user wants to share data with a third party, full respect of our citizens’ right to control their data, and being able to rely on secure cloud services. And they apply to everyone. Assertiveness is not protectionism,” he said.

“Honestly, do US firms really have reason to complain about their welcome in Europe? Did their collecting and using personal data of Europeans not contribute to them becoming tech giants? Do they not offer their services in Europe by surfing on some of the best global network infrastructures?” he said.

The semiconductor supply chain has been a key area of collaboration.

“I am pleased to say that the European Union and the United States are making great progress in de-risking our supply chains,” he said.

“On semiconductors, we have advanced hand-in-hand, with the US and EU Chips Acts. On cybersecurity, Secretary Mayorkas and I have launched at political level the EU-US cyber dialogue, and we in Europe have already started to remove high-risk suppliers Huawei and ZTE from our 5G networks.”

“The European Union has removed barriers to the circulation of products and services among our 27 Member States. It was time to reduce barriers in the digital space and create better conditions for European start-ups and companies to grow. With our digital regulation and investments, we aim to secure a competitive edge in areas ranging from AI to chips, from quantum to space, and to secure our supply chains in the technologies we need most,” he said.

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