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USTR Creates Response Team to Handle Digital Trade

Barriers to digital trade may soon be less troublesome now that the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has a new team in place to deal with it.

USTR has created a new Digital Trade Working Group designated to serve as a “rapid response” team to find and fight barriers to digital trade and promote policies to advance global digital trade.

“The Internet and digital technologies have a profound and positive impact on the U.S. economy, and it is important that barriers to trade and digital protectionism are monitored and addressed,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a statement Monday.

Deputy United States Trade Representative Robert Holleyman will lead the group, which will also include USTR staff with expertise in e-commerce, telecommunications, intellectual property and innovation, among other things.

Together, the group will examine barriers to cloud computing, platform services, and the trade in digital products. They will also negotiate and implement digital trade provisions bilaterally and for ongoing and completed negotiations including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement.

“Alongside the TPP, the first trade agreement to comprehensively address issues of the digital economy, the Digital Trade Working Group is an important resource to help the United States maintain its ‘digital trade surplus,’ and allow companies and workers in every sector of the U.S. economy to use the Internet to deliver innovative, American-made products and services abroad.”

If passed, TPP would expand opportunities for companies to deliver their goods or services over the Internet.

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“TPP includes strong rules that make sure the best innovation, not trade barriers and censorship laws, shapes how digital markets grow,” USTR’s TPP splash page says.

For one, it prevents data localization, meaning companies can choose where they want to store their data, rather than being subject to the kind of digital protectionism that makes keeping data onshore a cost of doing business.

It also prohibits digital customs duties, so those taxes won’t thwart the flow of music, video, software and games across the TPP nations. The trade deal would protect the movement of data for companies that interact with consumers, help people find products or facilitate web communication.

With TPP, blocking the use of technologies like encryption or virtual private networks (VPN), under the guise that they threaten national security won’t be allowed either.

What’s more, according to USTR, “TPP ensures that you don’t have to give up trade secrets or substitute local technology into your products and services, in order to access new markets.