American Chamber call for urgent action to agree a new regime for transatlantic data transfers
There are potentially serious implications for both businesses and individuals if a new data transfer mechanism is not agreed between the EU and US according to the newly appointed President of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, Bob Savage. Mr. Savage, who is Vice President of EMC and General Manager of EMC’s Global Centre of Excellence in Cork, was speaking to the media to mark his appointment as American Chamber President.
There are currently over 700 US companies in Ireland who employ 140,000 people nationwide. Mr Savage described the fact that Ireland is a leading destination for US foreign direct investment as “a wonderful achievement, and one that is continuing to grow. In 2015 alone employment in US companies grew by 9,000 net jobs – three quarters of all FDI jobs announced. However we cannot be complacent – because the competition for inward investment globally has never been as intense as it is today.”
“In a 21st century society cross-border data transfers are essential”, according to Mr. Savage who said they “facilitate business transactions, innovation, economic growth and job creation. Following the recent European Court of Justice decision to strike down the Safe Harbour Agreement that allowed for transatlantic data transfer, there is a very real risk that EU-US trade could be gravely damaged, jobs lost in the EU and the day-to-day lives of citizens significantly impacted. From next week European data protection authorities may begin examinations of companies’ data transfer arrangements, and in the absence of an EU-U.S. agreement, many companies may have to cease such transfers”
The implications of any disruption to transatlantic data flows could include, for example:
Significant obstacles for businesses, particularly SMEs, who have a presence in both the EU & US
Challenges for EU citizens attempting to access their social media accounts and essential services such as online banking while in the US
Difficulty in the speed of transferring records required for medical treatments or research
American Chamber member companies are fully supportive of the need to protect personal privacy and provide for data protection alongside the need to ensure public security. At the same time, in order to realise the potential of the digital revolution across industries it is vital that we strike the right balance between the promotion of innovation and growth, the protection of privacy and personal data, and ensuring the security of the public.
“Ireland must play a leadership role in Europe in pushing for a successful resolution. Given that the country is the gateway to Europe for over 700 U.S. companies we stand to benefit greatly from data innovation, but only if we continue to have a legal framework to facilitate this. We are calling on the EU and US negotiators to make this a top priority and introduce a new agreement in the coming weeks that allows for the international transfer of data while also maintaining the absolute integrity of an individual’s personal data. We call on the Irish Government to urgently press this issue at the EU table”
Key issues for 2016
Mr Savage said that the American Chamber believes skills, talent and innovation are the key to advancing foreign direct investment in Ireland. “It is in these areas that Ireland must excel in the highly competitive international market. We have to make sure we are doing everything possible to boost the supply of well-qualified Irish graduates and trainees in key sectors that are showing evidence of expansion and opportunity. We also have to ensure greater focus on the development of the existing workforce as well as attracting talented people back to Ireland or to Ireland to work and live.”
“Our marginal personal tax rates are currently sending out the wrong message. We need to ensure that productivity of top talent is rewarded and that individuals are incentivised to move to and stay in Ireland. We intend to work closely with the new Government to develop new tax measures to allow employers reward productivity and innovation.”
Mr Savage also highlighted infrastructure and property as a key issue for FDI. “The availability of both residential and commercial property is clearly an essential element of what makes any location attractive for Foreign Direct Investment. There is now unprecedented demand for grade A office space and residential accommodation, particularly in Dublin city. We need both the Government and planning authorities to prioritise this in 2016.”
In relation to the imminent General Election, Mr Savage referred to the economic uncertainty that has resulted elsewhere in Europe when elections have not led to the formation of a stable political administration. While making clear that the Chamber is politically non-partisan he did stress the importance of having a stable administration and certainty in economic policy that is pro-inward investment if Ireland is to maintain and enhance its FDI employment numbers
Bob Savage, President of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland concluded “the future for the Irish economy is extremely bright. We are optimistic that US companies will continue to grow here, adding at least 14,000 jobs in the next two years. However for this to happen there will need to be a continued focus from all stakeholders to keep Ireland attractive for investment and job creation.”