The digital economy & society is now firmly part of the agenda for the EU's relations with the Americas, From Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), to Mexico, the USA and Canada.

EU Cooperation with Latin America

The meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) adopted a political declaration in July 2018, which includes the digital economy as one of the main priority areas for cooperation.

Regulatel, the Forum of Latin America telecoms Regulators, works with the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) to deepen understanding of regulatory issues.

The Commission participates in the eLAC Ministerial Conferences organised by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). eLAC is a regional action plan for Latin America and the Caribbean (eLAC 2020), whose long-term vision is to promote ICT as a tool for economic development and social inclusion.

Since January 2018, a number of projects on digital cooperation with Latin America were launched under the Partnership Instrument with key partners in the region:

  • Cooperation on personal data protection while promoting free flow of data across international borders (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay with bilateral activities and regional activities).
  • Cooperation in the field of standardisation and interoperability of ICT services across international borders (Brazil)
  • International efforts to build trust and security in cyberspace (Brazil)

Four strategic areas of cooperation at regional level were explored during the first EU-LAC digital cooperation workshop in July 2018. The following ideas for future cooperation were identified as:

  • Telecoms regulation
  • Media
  • Cybersecurity
  • eCommerce / platforms.

A second workshop took place in March 2019 to elaborate specific action-oriented roadmaps in the abovementioned areas.

The contract to launch a submarine fibre-optic cable linking Lisbon in Portugal to Fortaleza in Brazil was signed in August 2018. This would connect RedCLARA, the South American research & education network and GEANT, the European research & education network. The cable is expected to be operational before the end of 2020.

Brazil

In 2007, the EU and Brazil established a strategic partnership. The EU's cooperation with Brazil on Science & Technology is one of the most active areas in the Strategic Partnership. The bilateral agreement was renewed for another five years in 2017.

As part of this cooperation framework, a dedicated Dialogue on Information Society takes place yearly between DG CONNECT and Brazil. The 10th edition took place in Brasilia in December 2017 and was marked by an ambitious agenda going well beyond the usual focus on research and innovation with increased emphasis on policies for digital transformation.

An outcome of the Information Society Dialogue has been the decision of the EU and Brazil of building an optical fibre submarine cable connecting the EU (Portugal) and Brazil (and subsequently South America). This infrastructure will be built by a private consortium and it is expected to be operational in the course of 2020. The EU invested EUR 25 million through the acquisition of capacity for research and educational networks (e-infrastructures).

Brazil also plays a prominent role in the region notably in the context of the ongoing trade negotiations with MERCOSUL. This importance was reaffirmed in recent contacts with President Juncker that concluded the need to move forward with arrangements for a future EU-Brazil Summit. In these contacts, EU's willingness to cooperate on Internet governance and data protection was reaffirmed.

Ongoing cooperation focuses on cloud computing, high-performance computing and experimental platforms; with further topics to be explored including 5G, Cloud and Internet of Things. Brazil is a key Latin American partner under the ICT theme Horizon 2020, with several coordinated calls leading to results with high social and industrial impact.

Mexico

Mexico is one of the EU's strategic partners and the country is looking towards the EU for best practice on opening up the market to competition in the telecoms market.

Domestically, Mexico has undergone a radical transformation of its telecoms and audio-visual markets following a reform of 2014, which has brought it to a much closer level playing field with the EU digital market. Mexico’s reform has started the deregulation of the market to introduce competition.

Regionally, Mexico is very active, together with Colombia, in pushing the “Mercado Digital Regional”, an initiative within the CELAC members. This is the so-called "eLAC 2020" process (Digital Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean). In 2013, President Enrique Peña, Mexico's former President, presented the five-year National Digital Strategy, the first adopted by Mexico. The National Digital Strategy has themes in common with the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy.

In April 2018, the EU and Mexico reached an ‘agreement in principle’ on the trade part of a modernised EU-Mexico Global Agreement. The new agreement will replace a previous agreement between the EU and Mexico from 2000. Besides the revised Free Trade Agreement, the agreement contains an updated political pillar for cooperation on many sectors, including digital economy.

The EU held a first successful dialogue with Mexico on the digital economy. The second dialogue is planned to take place in December 2018, in Mexico City.

Under the telecom reform that took place in January 2017, companies will no longer be barred from simultaneously providing cable TV, internet, fixed line and mobile phone services.

The first EU-Argentina ICT dialogue is planned to take place on 24-25 October 2018, in Brussels.

BELLA : A new digital data highway between Europe and Latin America

A contract was signed in August 2018 by a group of public stakeholders forming the BELLA (Building Europe Link to Latin America) consortium and ELLALINK, a private consortium, to deploy a submarine fibre-optic cable linking Europe and Brazil.

The BELLA consortium has been established to take full advantage of the future high-capacity link for the benefit of research and education networks. With around EUR 26.5 million invested (from the Horizon 2020 programme, Copernicus and the Development Cooperation Instrument), the EU is the main funder of the consortium.

BELLA includes 11 European and Latin American research and education networks from Germany, Portugal, Italy, Spain, France, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Brazil and is led by RedCLARA, the South American research & education network, and GEANT, the pan-European research and education network.

The cable is scheduled to be ready for use in 2020 and will provide reliable, high capacity connectivity that will boost business, scientific and cultural exchanges between the two continents. It will support innovation and knowledge-sharing in particular for improved earth observation services and will be a step forward in the creation of an EU–Latin America common research area. This new digital highway will also tackle Latin America's digital divide with Europe and among Latin American countries.

USA

The European Commission has regular annual ICT policy dialogue with the U.S. Department of State. The Directorate has an ICT Counsellor stationed at the EU Delegation in Washington D.C., since 2010.

For news of EU-US relations see the web pages of the EU Delegation in Washington DC.

Canada

A Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was adopted by the Council and signed at the EU-Canada Summit on 30 October 2016. Provisional application of CETA started on 21 September 2017 and the emphasis now is placed on delivering its promised results and on the commitments undertaken during its ratification for future work. The EU and Canada also signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement. Implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement is well underway with the first Joint Ministerial Committee, co-chaired by the High Representative and Vioe-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini and Minister Freeland, taking place on 4 December 2017. The committee adopted a joint statement and agreed to strengthen EU-Canada bilateral relationship, to enhance foreign policy coordination and to work closer together to address global challenges and opportunities.

The Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation between Canada and the European Union has been in place since 1996 and is not limited in time. The responsibility for the S&T cooperation dialogue lies with the EU–Canada Joint Science and Technology Cooperation Committee. The Joint Science and Technology Cooperation Committee meets on a regular basis to review progress and provides new directions for cooperation in the fields of science and technology.