October 26, 2021

WASHINGTON – Today, global tech trade association ITI identified trade barriers faced by U.S. tech companies across the world and offered recommendations for the U.S. to advance its trade work on digital issues. In comments to the Office of U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) consultation for its 2022 National Trade Estimate (NTE) Report, ITI outlined trade barriers in 36 non-U.S. markets – including Brazil, the European Union, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam – and encouraged USTR to advance a strong digital trade agenda through countering restrictions to digital trade, enforcing U.S. trade agreements, pursuing strong digital trade commitments, and supporting a robust international digital policy agenda.

“Digital trade has made available immense benefits and opportunities to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – increasingly so when in-person commercial engagement is restricted – and has meaningfully leveled the playing field for enterprises of different sizes across different markets,” ITI wrote in its submission. “At the same time, barriers to digital trade and e-commerce have continued to emerge in markets across the world – including in the markets of some of the United States’ most important trading partners – and impede U.S. exports of goods and services across a wide range of sectors. The United States’ competitiveness in the digitalized global economy risks being weakened as governments pursue policies that seek to or otherwise have the effect of excluding or restricting access to U.S. information and communications technology (ICT) goods and services, or forcing value transfer from foreign to local businesses. Such trade restrictions undermine market access commitments and disproportionately hurt workers and SMEs that produce digital services or connected goods for export.”

In its submission, ITI encouraged USTR to prioritize work on digital issues in the following ways:

  • Take action against digital trade restrictions that inhibit greater trade in technology products and services. U.S. trade officials must continue to tackle foreign trade restrictions that impact the technology sector and other sectors that use technology, and advocate for policies abroad that will benefit U.S. exports and other business activities. Key steps that USTR can take to achieve these goals include facilitating the flow of data across borders, promoting open internet policies, and strengthening and expanding good regulatory practices for digital trade to promote new technologies. Further, ITI welcomes USTR’s engagement in ensuring that new regulatory approaches to digital services are undertaken in a manner no more trade restrictive than necessary to achieve legitimate regulatory objectives, and that all technical regulations – whether applicable to goods, digital services, or both – be based on global, industry-driven, voluntary consensus standards.

  • Enforce U.S. trade agreements to ensure U.S. companies and workers can compete fairly. The rules in U.S. trade agreements should ensure that U.S. companies and workers are treated fairly and have an equal chance to compete in markets around the world. ITI encourages an active and assertive approach to enforcement of U.S. trade agreements, including plurilateral and multilateral agreements to which the United States is a party, targeted at problems of significant concern.

  • Actively pursue digital trade commitments with foreign governments. The increasing frequency of data-restrictive practices and digital protectionist measures around the world requires that the United States play a more active role in the establishment of global norms governing digital trade. Developing inclusive digital trade rules with trusted partners in the Indo-Pacific, whether by leading in the development of a new plurilateral agreement or pursuing the expansion of existing agreements, should be a critical element within a broader U.S. trade agenda to counter protectionist digital economy trends, safeguard the interests of U.S. workers, and bolster U.S. political, strategic, and economic equities and opportunities in the region.

  • Increase efforts and resources to support a robust U.S. digital trade policy agenda. To guide and support robust U.S. engagement on digital trade, USTR leadership should bolster resources for digital trade at all levels of the agency, and leverage existing and/or new mechanisms to conduct a comprehensive review of global digital restrictions and “hot spots” of digital protectionism that negatively impact U.S. companies and workers.

Public Policy Tags: Trade & Investment