WITA’s Friday Focus on Trade – November 10, 2023




Event Video – WITA Spotlight Event: Former United States Trade Representative Michael Froman

On Thursday, November 9, WITA hosted former United States Trade Representative Michael Froman for a virtual “fireside chat” with Ambassador Rufus Yerxa to discuss the new direction in U.S. trade policy since Ambassador Froman left office in 2017.

This event was the first in a series of one-on-one discussions with prominent figures in the trade world to discuss the new paradigm in U.S. trade policy, and its implications for the U.S. and the World.

Featured Speakers:

Ambassador Michael Froman, President, Council on Foreign Relations; former U.S. Trade Representative; former Vice Chairman and President, Strategic Growth, Mastercard

Ambassador Rufus Yerxa, Senior Advisor, McLarty Associates; former WTO Deputy Director General; former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
11/09/2023 | Washington International Trade Association

Ambassador Carla A. Hills on Trade Policy

Next Thursday, November 16, WITA will host the second in its series of virtual fireside chats with prominent figures in the trade world. The November 16 event will feature Ambassador Carla Hills, who served as the United States Trade Representative from 1989-1993. Information for that event can be found here, and below.

In 2022, WITA and the Washington International Trade Foundation honored Ambassador Carla Hills with their Lifetime Achievement Award. Among other things, Ambassador Hills led negotiations of the original North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Uruguay Round negotiations of the GATT – which created the World Trade Organization.

In the linked Video from the 2022 Annual Dinner, Ambassador Hills shares her views of the importance of international trade to American workers and the U.S. economy. She also discussed the importance of international trade as a development tool to address global poverty, and its importance to America’s national security.

The Annual Dinner is held each summer. It is hosted by the Washington International Trade Foundation, and is WITA’s signature event. The Dinner attracts hundreds of top decision makers, policy shapers, and trade experts from D.C. and around the world. The 2024 Annual Dinner will be held on Wednesday, July 24, 2024. Information on sponsorship of the 2024 Annual Dinner can be found here.
07/13/2022 | Washington International Trade Association | Washington International Trade Foundation

Multilateral and Regional Cooperation on Digital Trade Rules and Agreements in Asia-Pacific

The following is an excerpt from ”Multilateral and Regional Cooperation on Digital Trade Rules and Agreements in Asia-Pacific” published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Next Friday, November 17, WITA will host a webinar to discuss these critical issues. Information on that event can be found here and below.
Rules on digital trade are rapidly taking shape as countries in Asia-Pacific and beyond strive to secure the benefits associated with e-commerce and the digitalization of trade in goods and services. At the multilateral level, the WTO holds promise to reach a plurilateral agreement on core e-commerce issues by the end of 2023. Although far-reaching outcome seems unlikely, e-commerce rules agreed in the WTO will potentially serve as baseline commitments on cooperation in digital trade. At the regional level, different approaches have emerged, and many preferential trade agreements (PTAs) already include increasingly comprehensive and advanced digital trade provisions (DTPs) and the number of Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs) is growing. Asia-Pacific economies are unevenly engaged in cooperation in digital trade rulemaking – East and South-East Asia economies have welcomed DTPs in their agreements and are taking the lead in developing DEAs, while Central Asia and South Asia economies are lagging especially in intra-regional cooperation within the subregions. The proliferation of DTPs reflects the expanding and deepening cooperation, it may, however, undermine the benefits of digital trade if the rules are not harmonized. The landscape is getting clearer as there is an emerging coherence in the coverage of DTPs across agreements. Nevertheless, further reducing regulatory heterogeneity will be important in enabling the effective participation of smaller firms and less developed countries in cross-border digital trade…
…Looking ahead, given the growing importance of digital trade as an engine of growth and development, less developed countries need to keep abreast of the existing DTPs and develop a clearer understanding of their own needs and situation. Participation in multilateral level efforts may be particularly important for them given that they may be de facto excluded from preferential trade negotiations. Smaller and less developed countries may stress the inclusion of MSMEs in digital trade, capacity building, transfer of digital technologies and other means of reducing the digital divide. Further, progressive commitments may be a good strategy to promote for them when negotiating DTPs, particularly since they will often need time and to enhance domestic legislation on digitaleconomy-related issues, such as online consumer protection, personal information protection, and internal electronic transactions.

10/12/2023 | Runqiu Du, Yann Duval, Maria Semenova & Natnicha Sutthivana | United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

The New U.S. Digital Trade Agenda: Retreat

Last week, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) confirmed that the United States was withdrawing support for key digital trade rules. The rules in question were proposed by the United States at the start of the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce (JSI) to ensure that exporters from participating countries receive reasonable treatment with respect to cross-border data flows, data localization, and source code protection. With the rescission, the forthcoming outcomes of the WTO negotiations are likely to be far less impactful: U.S. support is critical to finalizing any such provisions, which are foundational to digitally-enabled commerce. The announcement is an abrupt turn for not only U.S. trade policy, but brings forth the question, what else is the United States abandoning in the digital governance space? For key allies and stakeholders who have looked to U.S. leadership, the image presented is one of a ship adrift with neither a rudder nor a captain.
The United States was a first mover in advancing trade rules for the digital economy. The most recent Trade Promotion Authority legislation, reflecting a strong bipartisan consensus, states: “The principal negotiating objectives of the United States with respect to digital trade in goods and services, as well as cross-border data flows, are . . . to ensure that governments refrain from implementing trade-related measures that impede digital trade in goods and services, restrict cross-border data flows, or require local storage or processing of data[.]” 
Just four years ago at the start of the JSI talks, the United States put forth a communication detailing just how important data flows are and emphasized why it is critical that the JSI tackle the challenge of negotiating rules to facilitate data flows. The text tabled by the United States in the JSI also mirrored the data flows text in United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the text in the U.S.-Japan Digital Trade Agreement. The United States is now bound by those rules, not only vis-a-vis Canada, Mexico, and Japan, but also vis-a-vis over a dozen Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners who enjoy Most-Favored Nation (MFN) rights from those prior agreements.
11/02/2023 | Rachael Stelly | Disruptive Competition Project (DisCo)

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