Washington — A U.S. China commission is scheduled to hear testimony Monday morning on digital trade barriers in China. As a longtime critic of the trade barriers inherent in Internet censorship, the Computer & Communications Industry Association has previously testified as to why these barriers violate international legal commitments. CCIA will renew these arguments on Monday.

At the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing Monday, CCIA Vice President Matt Schruers will say that while online freedom is certainly a human rights issue, blocking online information also has economic consequences as the export of digitally enabled services is a growing part of our economy. U.S. exports of digitally enabled services grew from $282.1 billion in 2007 to $356.1 billion in 2011.

“In light of the extraordinary potential that Internet-enabled trade has for the U.S. economy, maintaining a level playing field should be a U.S. priority.  Unfortunately, it is often the case that businesses in China and other nations that engage in filtering, blocking, and censorship of U.S. digital trade have full access to the U.S. market,” Schruers said in his written statement for the Commission. He went on to offer examples where China blocked US services on the basis that they threaten “public morals,” but allow similar, domestic offerings with fewer restrictions.

“Some have explained the elaborate Chinese censorship system as being geared towards maximizing the economic benefits of the Internet while maintaining strict social control.  Whatever the domestic aim of these mechanisms may be, they function, intentionally or not, as unlawful barriers to international trade,” Schruers said.

He acknowledged though that these practices are not entirely unique to China, “It bears noting that while these strategies are practiced within China, they are also practiced by other nations as well, with the result being that U.S. services are allowed uneven and unequal access to numerous growing markets abroad.  Because for many years the United States has largely acquiesced to digital trade barriers in China, other governments have been emboldened to follow this lead.”

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