Joint Statement Released at Major Privacy Conference Highlights Importance of U.S.-European Union (EU) Safe Harbor Framework

March 20, 2012

Krysten Jenci is the Team Leader for Electronic Commerce in the Manufacturing and Services unit of the International Trade Administration.  Her Team administers the U.S.-European Union and U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor Frameworks.

At this week’s EU Conference on Privacy and Protection of Personal Data held in Washington, D.C., Secretary Bryson and EU Commission Vice President  Reding released a joint statement on privacy which highlights the importance of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework.

The statement notes that “In line with the objectives of increasing trade and regulatory cooperation outlined by our leaders at the U.S.-EU Summit, the United States and the European Union reaffirm their respective commitments to the U.S.-Safe Harbor Framework…Since its inception, over 3,000 companies have self-certified to the Framework to demonstrate their commitment to privacy protection and to facilitate transatlantic trade…The EU and the United States remain dedicated to the operation of the Safe Harbor Framework – as well as to our continued cooperation with the Commission to address issues as they arise – as a means to allow companies to transfer data from the EU to the United States, and as a tool to promote transatlantic trade and economic growth”.

Since significant changes to the EU Data Protection Framework were announced in January 2012, many U.S. companies have asked about the status of the Framework.  This statement gives companies very useful reassurance that the program will continue as a tool to promote transatlantic trade and economic growth.

The Department’s International Trade Administration administers the Safe Harbor program.  The program allows U.S. companies to meet the requirements of the EU Data Protection Directive.  It allows cross border data flows to continue in a way that places a high value on the protection of personal data without unduly hindering trade and economic growth.  This is important because it facilitates uninterrupted transfers of personal information from the EU to the United States that support billions in trade.

The program has been a very important critical tool for thousands of companies who rely on it to help protect personal information while also facilitating international trade.  More than 60% of the companies in Safe Harbor are small and medium-sized enterprises, and Safe Harbor gives them an effective and efficient means to meet the requirements of the EU’s Data Protection Directive.

We strongly believe the Framework supports the goals of the President’s National Export Initiative by reducing regulatory barriers to trade.  This program also reinforces the trade and regulatory cooperation objectives noted by our leaders at the November 28, 2011, U.S.-EU Summit.

Finally, the program was cited in the Administration’s February 23 Privacy Blueprint, Safe Harbor is highlighted as an early example of interoperability that has had a meaningful impact on transatlantic data flows.  Safe Harbor created a framework for interoperability that has bridged the differences between our regulatory regimes.

We are so pleased that Secretary Bryson and Vice President Reding took advantage of this important conference to highlight our shared privacy objectives and to underscore the importance of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework.

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