U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has warned that the new European Union data law could create a barrier to U.S.-UK trade post-Brexit and may obstruct vital transatlantic data sharing in the fight against terror.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect last week across the EU, meaning that it has passed into Britain’s statute book and will remain in place after Brexit.
“GDPR’s implementation could significantly interrupt transatlantic co-operation and create unnecessary barriers to trade, not only for the U.S., but for everyone outside the EU,” President Donald J. Trump’s ally warned in an opinion piece for the Financial Times on Wednesday.
Noting that U.S. companies had already invested billions of dollars to comply with the new regulations, Mr. Ross expressed concern for the cost to small businesses, saying: “Complying with GDPR will exact a significant cost, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises and consumers who rely on digital services and may lose access and choice as a result of the guidelines.”
U.S. officials and companies are concerned they may be fined by the EU if they inadvertently break any of the new data rules, with fines reaching as high as £18 million.
“GDPR creates serious, unclear legal obligations for both private and public sector entities, including the US government,” he added.
Commerce Secretary Ross also raised the danger that restricting access to “publicly available internet domain-name registration data” poses, with his department anticipating that “companies will either stop providing ‘Whois’ look-up services outright, or make it hard to access the information”.
“That could stop law enforcement from ascertaining who is behind websites that propagate terrorist information, sponsor malicious botnets or steal IP addresses.”
The privacy guidelines are supposed to prevent businesses from abusing personal data, but may result in unintended consequences. Last week, dozens of American newspapers were forced to block users in the EU as companies struggled to match the requirements of the legislation.
U.S. commerce came to blows again with the European political bloc after the White House put into effect long-delayed tariffs on steel and aluminium on the EU (as well as Mexico and Canada) on Thursday as part of the President’s ‘America First’ economic nationalist agenda to protect American industries.
Mr. Ross had reported that “steel mill articles are being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States”.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the decision “protectionism, pure and simple,” and threatened “counterbalancing measures” from the EU — despite the bloc already operating a raft of protectionist measures itself, many of them applied to the U.S. more harshly than vice versa.