On October 23, the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue held a briefing session on the EU-U.S. Safe Harbor Agreement. Ted Dean, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce, gave an update on the negotiations with the European Commission. Following the Snowden revelations and a resolution of the European Parliament, the European Commission on November 17, 2013, issued a report on Safe Harbor highlighting 13 areas in which the Safe Harbor Agreement should be improved.
Mr. Dean reported that the Department of Commerce and the Commission are close to an agreement on the first 11 points of the Commission report. While he did not explain how these points will be addressed, he confirmed that the negotiations respect the horizontal scope of the Agreement and do not address specific technological developments or, for example, data breach. The two last items on the Commission list, however, are much more difficult to resolve because they relate to the activities of intelligence agencies over which Commerce has no competence. Commerce hopes this matter can be resolved through U.S. government commitments outside the Safe Harbor Agreement itself.
Mr. Dean explained that, in the mind of the U.S. negotiators at least, the discussions on Safe Harbor are quite separate from the discussions on an Umbrella Agreement for the exchange of data among law-enforcement agencies. He could not provide a precise timeline for the conclusion of the negotiations, but hopes to reach agreement on Safe Harbor well within six months. Once they have a deal, they expect to apply the result also to the Swiss-U.S. Safe Harbor Agreement.