Companies Ask for Internet Trade Rules

Dozens of top American companies are asking lawmakers to insert language into future trade agreements that protects the free flow of information on the internet, Reuters reports.

“We’re now in an era where the economy is literally driven by the Internet. It’s a digital economy,” Rick Johnston, senior vice president for international government affairs at Citigroup, said, according to Reuters.

The report says that there is a growing trend of countries forcing technology companies to open data centers within their borders to gain access to the market. This not only violates the principles of free trade, but it leaves the companies more susceptible to data breaches.

The report also raises concerns about government restrictions to certain websites. For instance, in China access to social marketing websites is often blocked to prevent criticism of the government and grassroots pro-democracy movements from forming.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told Reuters that he is pressing the World Trade Organization on implementing similar principles in their organization’s rules.

In addition, he is also trying to get language protecting the free flow of information over the internet into the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Eliminating barriers to cross-border data flows and other restrictions that are
hindering the growth of the Internet and trade in information technology goods and services is a priority issue in the administration’s twenty-first century trade agenda,” he said,according to Reuters.

MasterCard, Visa, Oracle, GoDaddy.com, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Software Alliance and the Coalition of Services Industries are among the groups that have signed on to the report.

They claim that many actions taken by the governments around the world to block access to information in the name of national security is nothing more than digital protectionism.

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