PublishedNovember 19, 2010

CCIA Offers Recommendations To Combat Trade Barriers From Internet Censorship

Chairman Wyden, D-Ore, said President Obama hopes to double exports within 5 years and he sees Internet and tech companies as instrumental to achieving that – if the U.S. can reduce the trade barriers brought by Internet censorship.

Wyden decried rampant global protectionism against Internet exports and said the Internet represents the trade route of the 21st Century. He said U.S. officials should take action when that trade route is blocked or impeded.  He asked witnesses including Salesforce, Intel, Sax Software, CCIA and economics professor Catherine Mann what they were seeing on the front lines in the battle between a closed versus open Internet.

CCIA President & CEO Ed Black told the committee that 40 nations engage in widespread censorship and offered details of some of the ways countries block information and favor their own domestic digital competitors.

Black said information discrimination represents a classic “non-tariff trade barrier.” “It also constitutes an unfair “rule of origin” by filtering out U.S. originating content such as certain U.S. domains deemed “subversive”, and violates the fundamental free trade principle of “national treatment,” he said.

Black offered several recommendations on how U.S. officials could address the trade problems, after saying that Internet freedom must begin at home:

“First, USTR should investigate and bring appropriate trade cases.  The “public order” exception should not be used as a get-out-of-jail-free card to restrict Internet trade.

Second, we should follow the blueprint established in the Korea FTA, which removes unnecessary barriers to cross-border information flows.

Third, we need to retool our trade policy.  While I believe the current trading regime already prohibits censorship, filtering, and blocking, we can make this more explicit in future agreements.  We should demand enforceable commitments to the free flow of information, and we should also internationalize ISP safe harbors.”

He added that USTR should refocus and implement a Special 301-like process for censorship that restricts Internet services.  He also said the Industry Trade Advisory Committee needs a free-standing Internet committee.  “An industry that adds $2 trillion to USGDP deserves formal input,” Black said.

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