International trade needs an international Cloud

We read with interest the European Commission’s Memo of 15 October on secure Cloud computing services in Europe, and entirely agree that the “fundamental principle at stake is the need to look beyond borders”. We strongly endorse its opposition to building a “Fortress Europe.”

As more and more commerce moves to the Internet, consumers and businesses of every size rely on the benefits of seamless, cross-border information flows – within the EU, and between the EU and other regions.

Films, music, electronic books, taxicab dispatching, financial services, social media and telecommunications are only the starting point: responsible creation, access, and use of data in the cloud are essential to a vast array of sectors – from manufacturers to on-line retailers, and from logistics and transportation services to architects and designers. All rely on data to boost innovation, efficiency and competitiveness.

An open, global trading system has been beneficial both to Europe and the world economy. In the same way that the EU’s internal market for physical goods and services remains open to external trade, so should an internal market for the cloud permit data flows beyond Europe’s borders. At a time when the European Union and United States are trying to dismantle regulatory barriers to commerce through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), protectionism is no more appropriate for the cloud than it is for cars, chemicals and cameras.

Concerns about cloud security must be dealt with, but the solution is not to demand localised server and data storage across the board – these would stifle growth by choking the flow of data in and out of Europe. If Europe were to require localisation of data, it would set a precedent for other regions that may follow suit, damaging growth opportunities for European cloud service providers.

The cloud is no longer a novelty, but an integral part of European business. Geographic limits will deprive EU enterprises of global opportunities and curtail the growth of the digital sector.