In a letter dated May 16, 2017, the Internet Association, a trade group representing some of the largest internet companies in the country (and the world), pressed newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to see their perspective on trade policies in the digital age.
Among the companies that the Internet Association represents are established giants such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook as well as those pushing the newest frontiers of Internet commerce, including Uber, Airbnb, and Dropbox. This distinguished group of companies set forth six key principles that it asked Representative Lighthizer to consider implementing to defend and grow digital trade around the world.
First, the Internet Association calls for the creation of specific policies to clarify and support the cross-border transfers of information. Specifically, the group highlights the need to eliminate requirements that data stored or processed in facilities located within the United States.
Second, the coalition requests that the Representative defend and promote the ‘balance’ achieved by current U.S. copyright laws. The Internet Association cites the centrality of ‘fair use’ to web search, machine learning, data mining, and cloud technologies and notes that internet companies rely on safe harbors and liability limitations in copyright law as they push to create innovative new products and services.
Third, the Internet Association similarly lauds section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which insulates internet content host from liability for the ‘speech’ of its users. As the letter notes, this protection, which fosters an environment of open discourse, is not realized in all countries.
Fourth, the group believes that streamlining customs procedures would foster growth in small and micro internet business who connect consumers to new goods from around the world.
Fifth, the Internet Association cautions that restrictions and outright prohibitions on access to the internet and specific digital services will negatively affect the U.S.’s strong internet economy and that the Representative should work to ensure non-discriminatory market access.
Finally, the group calls for the designation of a senior-level official to oversee digital trade matters and negotiations.
The Internet Association’s letter underscores that the internet sector of the U.S. economy is – and must remain – a focus of U.S. trade policy. While the Internet Association represents some of the largest internet companies in the world, concerns over potential liability, customs delays, and non-discriminatory access to international markets are shared by all companies with an internet presence. As the internet drives an ever growing sector of the U.S. economy, all companies must be ready to navigate their compliance with import and export barriers that are no longer merely physical.