Modernizing our Trade Agenda

By Greg Slater, director of Trade and Competition Policy for Intel

Open markets and free trade are critical to Intel’s business. With 95% of worldwide consumers living outside of the U.S., Intel’s ability to efficiently access global markets is essential to our continued prosperity and to maintaining jobs in the U.S.

Today, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on Capitol Hill focusing on how to modernize our nation’s trade agenda – an important conversation to ensure that American businesses are competing on a level playing field in this global marketplace. The event included participants such as Members of Congress and congressional staff, representatives from the business community, academic leaders, and former trade negotiators.

As I discussed in congressional testimony last year, Intel believes that a modern trade agenda should (1) update relevant trade rules to effectively address emerging non-tariff barriers in the digital world; (2) provide greater governmental support for international standards and best practices that encourage e-commerce and resolve concerns not effectively addressed by trade agreements; and (3) eliminate tariffs on digital products. The first two points apply to activity and transactions broader than e-commerce.

For example, existing World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements do not address the regulation of encryption in widely available ICT products, which can be overbearing or discriminatory and thus significantly impair the dissemination of leading edge technologies if not constrained by sound market access principles. In addition, governments are increasingly requiring the disclosure of sensitive business information in conjunction with the certification of ICT products without the safeguards necessary to prevent misappropriation of such information. Moreover the use of compulsory licensing by governments to force access to valuable technologies is increasing, yet applicable licensing restrictions in WTO law have rather limited impact.

Even so, the most advanced agreements cannot keep pace with the rapid innovation in the digital world. Industry also must develop appropriate best practices, and voluntary standards to fill in the “regulatory gaps” not yet suited for binding international agreements. International best practices and voluntary standards are more flexible than technical regulations, ensure interoperability, develop more quickly because they require less negotiation, and are easier to update to accommodate evolving technologies and address legitimate privacy, security, IP and other concerns that arise with new electronic products and services.

Governments also should work to reduce or eliminate tariffs on digital goods. Intel strongly supports USTR’s recent interest in expanding the scope of the zero tariff Information Technology Agreement to include a host of ICT products developed since it was executed 14 years ago.

We are pleased to participate in discussions such as today’s event that are intended to develop market access strategies to increase the prosperity and competitiveness of U.S. companies and their employees. We thank Representatives Dreier and Polis for their bipartisan support of trade and look forward to continuing to work with partners on this important issue.

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