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Internet Companies Unveil UK-U.S. Trade White Paper As They Call For ‘Best-In-Class’ Digital Trade Provisions

London, UK – Internet Association (IA) – the trade association that represents leading global internet companies on public policy – today has unveiled a White Paper detailing the key digital provisions that should be part of any U.S.-UK trade agreement. Internet companies have laid out six key digital provisions to create a ‘best-in-class’ digital chapter that ensures the benefits of both digital economies are boosted.

IA Executive Director UK Daniel Dyball said: “The internet is a vital part of both the UK and U.S. economies – as our White Paper today highlights. It is crucial that any future agreement ensures the internet sector can grow its positive contribution to the economy and society. We stand ready to work closely with the UK and U.S. governments in the coming months to ensure we make the most of this opportunity.”

The White Paper shows the close and growing digital trade relationship between the U.S. and the UK and what is at stake in the negotiations, with internet companies claiming this is a golden opportunity for both countries to be ‘digital leaders’ across the globe. The U.S. now exports $48.8 billion (£39 billion) in digital services to the UK, an increase of 52 percent from 2006 to 2018. Similarly, the UK now exports $34.8 billion (£27.8 billion) to the U.S., an increase of 56 percent from 2006 to 2017. 

The paper also demonstrates how other industries, such as manufacturing and agriculture, are key beneficiaries of digital trade. The U.S. and the UK also rank numbers five and six, respectively, among OECD countries for their share of predominantly digitally-delivered services in commercial services trade. And nearly one-fifth of each economy’s total employment is in ICT task intensive jobs. 

IA Director of Trade Policy Jordan Haas said: “The U.S. and the UK lead the world in digital technology and this trade agreement should include policies that will bolster that success. The provisions in our White Paper would strengthen both countries’ digital trade leadership – at a time when other nations are pushing very different, closed visions of the internet.”

This is the first time the internet sector has spoken in detail about how the UK-U.S. FTA negotiations can benefit the thriving digital sectors in both countries. The trade negotiations are ongoing, with both sides having already held two rounds of talks. 

Internet companies propose that any future trade agreement (FTA) include the following provisions:

  1. The free flow of information across borders and protecting privacy. The internet is a borderless medium and the movement of electronic information enables virtually all global commerce. The ability to transfer and access information across borders is critical to all economic sectors and when information is restricted, the economy and exports are hurt. 
  2. Nondiscriminatory treatment of digital services. Any reform to taxation measures affecting digital services in particular should be developed in an internationally coordinated manner.
  3. Intermediary liability protections. When considering policies to improve digital safety, care should be taken that measures do not undermine the intermediary liability protections that are crucial to the functioning of the internet economy.
  4. Innovation oriented copyright. As more exporters leverage the internet to trade goods and services and use a number of these innovative practices, copyright limitations and safe harbors, tailored for the digital environment, have become even more critical to the growth of the entire economy.
  5. Customs and trade facilitation for small e-commerce sellers. Fifty-three percent of UK SMEs are currently selling online, and for every £1 a sole trader makes, an average of £0.69 comes via online. E-commerce is powering trade by giving internet-enabled businesses the ability to find customers around the world – so customs rules between the two countries should allow that to be as simple as possible.
  6. Prohibition on disclosure of encryption, source code, or digital customs duties. Some foreign governments are seeking to limit market access by imposing complex and unnecessary licensing requirements on online services. It is important that the U.S. and the UK work to ensure the integrity of encryption and source code; that there are no customs duties on digital transmission; and that there is no unnecessary regulation of online services.

To read the full White Paper, click here.