David O’Sullivan, Senior Counselor with Steptoe & Johnson LLP, outlines some of the major policy actions and concerns issuing from the European Union today.
The EU sits at “the center of the largest free-trade network the world has ever seen,” says O’Sullivan. The body continues to negotiate new deals for liberalizing trade and enforce old ones, while at the same time striving to ensure that the benefits of its actions outweigh the possible negatives.
Major issues include the formation of strict environmental standards for member nations. The EU has declared the goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, with an interim target of reducing emissions by 55% by 2030. Such a bold initiative will require “a radical overhaul of all aspects of economic and social activity,” O’Sullivan says. EU countries are gambling that getting ahead of the curve on carbon neutrality will give them a competitive advantage over time.
EU policy on digital technologies is taking three forms: a digital sales tax, which is also being addressed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); a digital services act, aiming to regulate platforms in matters such as hate speech, fake news and political manipulation, and a digital markets act, addressing antitrust concerns in that area.
The EU continues to move forward without the participation of the United Kingdom. O’Sullivan calls Brexit “a sad moment,” but adds that “once it became clear that that was their choice, the rest of Europe decided it would move on. The event is now behind us.” What remains is managing the new relationship between the EU and U.K., with issues such as financial services and data flows still to be negotiated.
Also high on the EU’s agenda is revitalization of the World Trade Organization, O’Sullivan says.
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