Background

The House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee held a hearing July 13 on expanding U.S. digital trade and eliminating barriers to U.S. digital exports. The hearing highlighted how high-standard and ambitious digital trade provisions in U.S. trade agreements can, if thoroughly implemented and fully enforced, open markets to U.S. exports and benefit U.S. businesses of all sizes that rely on digital trade. It focused on U.S. successes as the world’s leading digital exporter, including job creation and economic growth, foreign trade barriers faced by U.S. digital exports, and how current and future trade agreements and other efforts can reduce those barriers.

Trade Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-Wash) highlighted the benefits of digital trade for both high-tech and traditional companies in a broad range of industries, including manufacturers, retailers and service providers, observing that these companies “depend on digital platforms to export goods and services.” He also spoke of the importance of digital trade for small businesses, particularly through their use of e-commerce websites, search engines and payment systems.

A Ways and Means Committee press release indicates that members agreed that trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, play a key role in breaking down foreign barriers to trade in U.S. goods and services. Reichert highlighted the commitments included in TPP to “ensure the free flow of global information and data at the heart of the digital economy” and prohibit data localization measures. While the Washington lawmaker expressed disappointment about the exclusion of financial services from the TPP localization requirements, he welcomed the efforts of the Obama administration to work constructively to address this issue.

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