EU opens California office to smooth discussions with big tech

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The European Union has opened an office in San Francisco in a bid to strengthen ties and communicate more effectively with US companies such as Apple and their stakeholders on technology policy and regulation.

The U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council was created in 2021 to help the two countries work together on trade and technology policies. After a decade of challenged anti-trust rulings, the EU is particularly interested in increasing communication with US companies that are under the effect of European laws and regulations.

"The opening of the office in San Francisco responds to the EU's commitment to strengthen transatlantic technological cooperation and to drive the global digital transformation based on democratic values and standards," said Josep Borrell, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. "It is a concrete step to further reinforce the EU's work on issues such as cyber and countering hybrid threats, and foreign information manipulation and interference."

The initiative involves promoting EU standards of policy and regulation, that are often at odds with US companies. The office is headed by Gerard de Graaf, an EU official involved in legislation such as the Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act.

The Digital Services Act, as an example, was approved by the EU in July 2022. It requires social media companies to enact procedures to deal with illegal content and requires they fairly apply these rules equally across their platforms. The Digital Markets Act involves anticompetitive behavior.

De Graaf expressed an interest in also building ties with lawmakers, academics, and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal in July, he said he wants to help US companies adopt strategies that aren't "driven by lawyers alone."

Each country handles policy and regulation in different ways, and De Graaf expects lawsuits from US companies toward future EU legislation.

"A relationship between the regulator and the regulated is always a bit complicated," De Graaf said. "A regulator is always like a bit of a policeman."