Bart Gordon recognized the value of the strong relationship between the United States and Europe early on during his 26 years as a member of the House.
“When I came to Congress, I became very interested in the transatlantic relationship, I thought it was important to our country,” the Democrat from Tennessee, who didn’t run for reelection in 2010, told The Hill in a recent interview.
As a lawmaker, Gordon, now 73, worked his way into roles in the Transatlantic Parliamentary Dialogue and NATO Parliamentary Assembly, both groups dedicated to bringing together legislators from the U.S. and the European Union.
He has taken that experience and faith in the benefits of collaboration into his current role as co-director of the Trans-Atlantic Business Council (TABC).
The organization, managed by the law firm Gordon works for, K&L Gates, was formed by a merger between the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue and the European-American Business Council.
It now represents more than 20 companies headquartered in either the U.S. or EU.
In his role as one of its directors, Gordon has had an opportunity to help repair what he saw as a battered partnership.
“During the Trump period it was very difficult time for that relationship, which I think was unfortunate on a number of reasons,” Gordon said, pointing specifically to the former president’s “harsh language” toward Europe.
Former President Trump’s threats to leave NATO if its members declined to increase military spending certainly did not help ties, which were already strained by revelations under the Obama administration about the National Security Agency’s spying on world leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel.
Those relationships have taken a turn for the better recently, Gordon contends, opening up new potential for collaboration.
“One of the good byproducts of the Ukraine situation with Russia is bringing us back together — recognizing that we do have these mutual values and these mutual interests,” he said.
Technology, in particular, could present a fruitful area for collaboration as an issue that clearly crosses national borders.
Emerging artificial intelligence applications and the development of energy stores including high-tech batteries are issues where the U.S. and EU can collaborate for shared benefit, Gordon says.
The landmark agreement in principle last month on a new Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework for the movement of personal information is a key example of that potential.
There are still large gaps, however, between tech governance in the U.S. and EU. Europe has had the stringent General Data Protection Regulation in place since 2016, while Congress continues to struggle to advance a national framework for privacy.
And just this weekend, the European Parliament and member states reached a deal on the Digital Services Act, a raft of regulations forcing tech giants to tackle illegal content on their platforms or face steep penalties and effectively banning targeted advertising.
The focus on harmonizing approaches to technologies of the future may be easier than changing rules for more mature industries, Gordon contends.
Unlike with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed U.S.-EU agreement that was formally declared obsolete in 2019, with collaboration in tech, “we’re looking not necessarily for incumbent industries, but industries of the future.”
“The more that we harmonize this relationship in standards, I think the better off we are,” Gordon added.
One relationship that Gordon has focused on closely is the Trade and Technology Council (TTC).
Formed last summer at a U.S.-EU summit, the TTC is composed of 10 working groups bringing together regulators from both sides of the Atlantic.
In advance of the TTC’s upcoming summit in May, Gordon and his team are putting together an agenda focused on “low-hanging fruit” that can “lay the framework for more significant work in the future.”
Throughout that process of working with the diverse set of groups represented by the TABC, Gordon has relied on his lengthy experience working with legislators in both zones.
“I have a maybe a better understanding of how the EU system works and how the U.S. system works than some others,” he said.
Building those business ties and developing the infrastructure for future collaboration is crucial for Gordon to making a relationship that is inevitable going to be tested again more durable.
“There’s going to be some anomalies, something’s going to happen somewhere along the line, it’s going to be difficult,” he explained. “So it’s just important that I think the conversations get started, the trust get started, transparency gets started, and then there’ll be a comfortableness to get through the bumpy parts.”
Pushing to improve the relationship is essential to securing economic prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic, Gordon believes.
“There’s going to be more jobs, not less jobs, more wealth, not less wealth, and as that occurs then the political strain at home will be reduced,” he said.