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Closing Remarks by Michelle O’Neill
Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade


Conference on the International Transfer of Personal Data

Brussels, Belgium

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

As Prepared

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce, thank you Peter (Schaar) for hosting this important annual meeting on the International Transfer of Personal Data. I would also like to thank our colleagues at the European Commission and the Article 29 Working Party for partnering with the Department of Commerce in hosting this conference. It is because of their preparation, cooperation and hard work that we have been able to make the progress we have here this week.

I would also like to thank the companies, organizations and individuals who represent civil society who are here with us today. They are really the reason why we are here. Their interest in balancing security with efficiency in the transfer of data between the U.S. and Europe helps form our agenda and find solutions to challenging issues we seek to resolve.

As a result of our discussions this week, we enhanced our common understanding of the implications our work has on businesses and consumers in our societies. We must continually strive to keep our initiatives fresh, relevant and oriented to the needs of the people, businesses and governments who benefit from our efforts.

For six years we have continually made improvements to the international data processing regime. The success of the program is self-evident: since self-certification began in November 2000, we have increased the number of companies participating in the safe harbor program from two to more than 1000 today. In the past year alone, nearly 200 new companies have self-certified.

This is a program that works, and it works because of your efforts to solve issues cooperatively and collaboratively. More than $400 billion in business is affected by this program, and your hard work has made it easier for multinational companies to trade, invest, manufacture and serve customers wherever they are.

There is no doubt that as data protection has become an increasingly important subject, the opportunities for all stakeholders to regularly exchange views at meetings like this has been very valuable. I would therefore like to extend to my colleagues an invitation to meet next year in Washington, and to hold these meetings on a regular basis, alternating between the United States and the European Union.

With an expanded dialogue, we will be able to review our progress on the Safe Harbor Framework and increase our understanding of the complexities of cross border personal data flows in the global economy. A formal invitation and a proposal to this effect will be sent to the European Commission in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your outstanding contributions during this conference and throughout the year. Your work has enhanced our trans-Atlantic relationship and strengthened the bonds that make the European-American economic partnership one of the strongest in the world.