Guest Opinion: New trade deal boosts America’s digital economy

Published 12:56 pm Monday, August 5, 2019

By Jeff Joseph

Congress will soon vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a monumental deal that modernizes North American trade for the 21st century.

USMCA will help American tech businesses drive economic growth and create jobs.

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“Digital trade” encompasses a wide variety of activity. Any time a business in one country uses the internet to deliver their services abroad, that’s digital trade. When firms sell software or cloud-computing services overseas, that’s digital trade too.

America is home to the world’s most innovative tech companies. The United States International Trade Commission calculated that in 2011 – the most recent figures available – digital trade had increased U.S. employment by up to 2.4 million positions.

The U.S. Commerce Department also estimated that services exports potentially enabled by information and communication technology to Canada and Mexico in 2017 totaled $31 billion and $9.2 billion respectively.

USMCA’s digital provisions would further expand this trade and its benefits.

The deal effectively expands opportunities for America’s banking, insurance, and, likely, non-traditional industries that may want to offer innovative “fintech services.” The agreement also encourages the use of e-signatures, a sector in which U.S. firms are the overwhelming leaders.

USMCA protects technology companies’ proprietary data. The agreement prevents countries from requiring companies to reveal their software source codes and algorithms. These protections would make it harder for governments to steal companies’ intellectual property. By safeguarding IP, USMCA rewards and encourages innovation.

Importantly, USMCA reaffirms each nation’s commitment to the rigorous cross-border privacy rules. This allows each nation to safeguard individual privacy without clamping down on cross-border data flows – a win for businesses and consumers.

USMCA strengthens America’s position in the global marketplace. This freedom-first approach will attract more firms and capital to the United States, further boosting job creation and enhancing our global leadership. Congress should ratify USMCA quickly.

Jeff Joseph is the president and CEO of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).