Washington — As the U.S. Trade Representative’s office prepares its annual report on trade barriers, the Computer & Communications Industry Association offered its input on digital trade issues. The US is the largest exporter of trade in services, $662 billion in 2013, and the Internet is the single biggest component of trade in cross-border services.
As Internet services become a greater part of the global economy, CCIA told USTR in its comments that it will be more important to monitor digital trade barriers. Internet censorship and other barriers have been ongoing problems in countries including Russia and many others in Asia and the Middle East. CCIA’s filing also offers additional information and examples of more recent and growing barriers in Europe and elsewhere like allowing snippet fees, holding companies liable for what their users do online or forcing companies to host data locally as a condition to do business.
“We appreciate the USTR’s ongoing effort to address trade barriers in its annual National Trade Estimate. As the economy evolves, the NTE will need to increasingly investigate and respond to barriers to digital trade if the Internet and Internet-enabled services are to continue to be export growth leaders,” said CCIA President & CEO Ed Black.
CCIA detailed how some countries’ recent moves to restrict online information for alleged copyright reasons violates current trade agreements. Various countries have tried to inhibit the use of quoted material online or require fees when search engines return a few words or snippets of text as part of search results. CCIA’s report states that, “Established international copyright rules prohibit nations from restricting the right to quote. Because this provision of Berne is incorporated in TRIPS,101 WTO Members have a mandatory, affirmative obligation to permit anyone to quote from a work that is already lawfully publicly available. An ancillary right or any other form of snippet tax would abrogate this right in violation of TRIPS obligations.”
CCIA’s report also cited a new problem not faced last year: Europe’s October court ruling against data-transfers between the EU and US could be an unprecedented impediment to trans-Atlantic commerce — unless negotiators are able to institute a new safe harbor agreement in time.