Digital Trade 2023: The Declaration, The Debates and The Next Global Economy



Ed Gresser | Progressive Policy Institute

In the single generation since the launch of the internet, a generation’s worth of scientific research and technological innovation, infrastructure deployment, and generally good policymaking has taken a small set of computer networks operated by academics, business researchers, and government scientists, and turned into a global digital world of 5.3 billion people. Associated with this has been an enormous leap forward in individual liberty, in global prosperity, and in new policy challenges. Looking ahead with its allies and partners last year, the Biden administration helped produce a vision of the future. This is the “Declaration on the Future of the Internet,” which, in a brief two and a half pages, illuminates a possible version of the next the digital world: one of freer flows of information, higher-quality consumer protection, enhanced economic growth, and liberty preserved.

Their vision is right, but it is highly contested — in part by authoritarian governments seeking to restore or strengthen controls over their publics (or even, at least in part, other countries’ publics), and in part by often friendly countries mistakenly believing that their own technological leadership might depend on diminishing that of the U.S. tech industry. The administration can help achieve its vision, and in doing so contribute to the realization of the Declaration’s vision, through four steps: 

1. An idealistic and ambitious approach in the 15-country “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” (IPEF), that provides a future vision more attractive than authoritarian alternatives resting on free flows of data, opposition to forced localization of server and data, strong consumer protection, non-discriminatory regulation, anti-spam and anti-disinformation policies, cyber-security, and broad-based growth through encouragement for open electronic commerce.

2. A strong response in the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) to European Union attempts to create discriminatory regulations and taxes targeting American technologies and firms.

3. Defense of U.S. values in the U.N., WTO, and other venues against “digital sovereignty” campaigns by China and others that endanger the internet’s multi-stakeholder governance, normalize large-scale censorship and firewalling, and generally place the political fears and policy goals of authoritarian government above the liberties of individuals.

4. Supporting responsible governance of technology and politely but firmly pushing back on attempts either at home or internationally to demonize technological innovation and American success.

Digital Trade 2023. The Declaration, The Debates and The Next Global Economy


Ed Gresser is Vice President and Director for Trade and Global Markets at Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).

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