Remarks by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert W. Holleyman II: Digital Economy and Trade: A 21st Century Leadership Imperative

By: Staff | Jun 5 2015

Washington, DC – Friday, May 1 – Thank you, Representative Kind, for that warm introduction, and for your leadership of the New Democrat Coalition.  The Coalition’s American Prosperity Agenda recognizes the role that smart economic policy can play in sharpening the competitive edge that makes America home to the world’s finest innovators.  Your commitment to advancing polices to ensure that the Internet remains open, free, and a platform for global innovation is something that we at USTR share.  It is also a key impetus for many of the digital economy initiatives I will describe today.

 I would also like to thank Simon Rosenberg and the entire team at NDN for providing me with a platform to explain how the Obama Administration is transforming the rules of international trade to promote the digital economy.  As many here today know, Simon and NDN have been early champions in encouraging the United States to play a leadership role in establishing a solid policy foundation to support the global digital economy.  For this reason, I could think of no better context in which to shine a spotlight on the comprehensive package of trade rules that the United States is currently negotiating and to explain why the Obama Administration has made promoting the digital economy a key component of its trade agenda.

I am speaking today about the digital economy and trade as a 21st century leadership imperative, because we stand at a cross road.  The rules we have in place in the international trading system—historically championed by the U.S. I will add—have served us well, so far.  They have helped enable the explosive growth of the Internet and dissemination of new technology, and have led to rapid changes that have brought us closer together, allowed us to trade across borders, and that have allowed some of the world’s greatest innovations to emanate from our shores. 

However, as someone who has worked at the intersection of technology and international trade for over two decades, I can speak with confidence when I say this:  the trading rules that have helped us get to where we are today are no longer sufficient.  They are no longer sufficient in light of the seismic changes in the way that technology is evolving.  They are no longer sufficient in the face of new barriers that are being erected.  Barriers that if allowed to proliferate will stand in the way of innovation and impede the ability for U.S. innovators to succeed in the digital future as they have in the digital past.  One of the most important aspects of President Obama’s 21st century trade agenda is centered on the digital economy and digital trade.   It is this agenda that I am glad we can talk about today.     

I call the rules I will describe today our “digital dozen.”  Before I get to that it should be said that we are negotiating many more disciplines in our trade agreements to support the free flow of goods, services, and data across the Internet.  But the dozen rules I will describe in detail today, building on other fundamentals of the agreements we are negotiating, will help ensure that the digital economy and the Internet remain as central to America’s competitiveness and prosperity in the next 20 years as they have been in the past 20. 

 The principles we are looking at today are designed to secure not only our ability to compete in the 21st century digital economy, but also the very parameters of that economy itself.  Our digital agenda is designed to address questions such as:

 •Will the Internet continue to remain open, accessible, and free?

•Will the Internet drive growth as powerfully in the next 20 years as it did in the last 20?

•Will the Internet continue to create opportunities for small businesses, deliver high-quality health care and financial services to rural areas and marginalized people, and continue to fulfill its promise to lift people out of poverty and oppression?

•Or will it become fractious and balkanized, disintegrating into regional and national networks that our farmers, exporters, creators and innovators can only access for an exacting price?

Full article available at http://1.usa.gov/1FoOvJY

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