June 2, 2015 / 8:23 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. expects commercial data-sharing deal with EU "very soon"

* Revelations of U.S. spying sent shockwaves across Europe

* EU reopened data-sharing deal in 2013 after spying revelations

* “Safe Harbour” used by over 3,000 firms to transfer data to U.S.

By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS, June 2 (Reuters) - The United States expects it will be able to clinch an agreement “very soon” with the European Union on a deal allowing companies to easily transfer data across the two blocs, a U.S. government representative said on Tuesday.

The European Commission, the EU executive, reopened the Safe Harbour agreement, which makes it easier for companies to transfer EU citizens’ data to the United States, after revelations about U.S. mass surveillance activities involving European citizens sent shockwaves across the continent.

As a condition for not scrapping Safe Harbour, which facilitates the everyday business activities of some 3,000 companies, both European and American, Brussels demanded guarantees from the United States that the collection of EU citizens’ data for national security purposes would be limited and proportionate.

The initial aim of completing a revised deal by the end of last summer lapsed because the Commission did not feel that the United States was offering enough to assuage its privacy concerns.

But Catherine Novelli, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic growth, Energy and the Environment, said on Tuesday that an agreement on Safe Harbour would come “very, very soon.”

“We are very optimistic that we are going to be able to come to an agreement soon on Safe Harbour,” she said at a press event in Brussels.

Asked to clarify, she said it would not take months.

“It’s very important that we find ways to preserve data flows. Because so much of this is business to business and because of the cross-investment, we don’t want to be shooting ourselves in the foot by hampering this economic activity.”

A study by the Boston Consulting Group in 2012 estimated that EU citizens’ data was worth 315 billion euros ($350 billion) in 2011 and could grow to 1 trillion euros by 2020.

Safe Harbour allows U.S.-registered companies to transfer Europeans’ data to the United States by self-certifying that they comply with the EU’s data protection rules. ($1 = 0.8973 euros) (Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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