WASHINGTON, DC — Today, TechFreedom joined National Taxpayers Union and a dozen free-market organizations in urging Congress to pass the Global Trade Accountability Act. The new bill would require Congressional approval of Executive trade measures that raise tariffs, restrict imports, or breach trade agreements — much as the REINS Act, just passed by the House, requires Congressional approval of major regulations.

The letter states:

Trade policy has been unfairly maligned in recent years, but make no mistake: protectionism has an ugly history in the United States. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs of 1930 deepened and prolonged the Great Depression. Since World War II, however, a bipartisan consensus emerged and the United States began working to liberalize foreign trade between nations. This has paid enormous dividends both domestically and abroad.

Republicans can’t be anti-trade and pro-innovation at the same time,” said Evan Swarztrauber, Communications Director at TechFreedom. “The politics of trade may have changed, but the facts haven’t. Trade is the tech economy, as 95% of global consumers live outside the U.S. As President Trump wrings his hands over our ‘trade deficit’ — also known as a ‘capital surplus’ — America continues to be a global leader in high-tech exports, totaling over $150 billion in 2014, according to the World Bank. Restricting trade would harm American workers and make tech products and services more expensive for everyone, both Americans and customers of American businesses abroad.”

Cross-border data flows are the lifeblood of the Internet,” said Berin Szóka, President of TechFreedom. “The real threat to the ‘open Internet’ is a crackdown on digital trade that could stop Internet services from working across borders, facilitate censorship, and undermine user privacy. Many foreign governments — not just autocrats  — have been looking for pretexts to require American tech companies to store data about their citizens in their country of origin. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would have begun recognizing these mandates for what they are: non-tariff trade barriers. Pulling out of TPP marked a major setback for digital free trade. This bill would require Congressional approval for such calamitous decisions based on economic analysis — and thus allow for more thoughtful public debate.”

Last year, the Obama Administration and the European Commission hastily cobbled together the “Privacy Shield” agreement to replace the earlier 2000 Safe Harbor for transAtlantic data flows after that agreement was struck down by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for failing to provide ‘equivalent’ protection in the U.S. for Europeans’ data. Pending legal challenges to Privacy Shield may result in the ECJ striking down the Privacy Shield, too — forcing negotiation of a new agreement.

Failure of the Privacy Shield may mean more than a digital trade war with Europe; it could spark new digital protectionism worldwide,” warned Szóka. “Keeping digital trade lanes open will require negotiating agreements on data flows quickly — including difficult questions about law enforcement and national security agencies. Enacting the GTAA would protect cross-border data flows by making digital trade agreements more permanent — not something the Administration could simply tear up to satisfy populist demands, or that could disappear quickly as the legal landscape over governmental access to data shifts. The failure of Privacy Shield could coincide with the expiration of foreign surveillance authority under Section 702 of FISA — the perfect storm for a real crisis over cross-border data flows. In these increasingly troubled times, enacting GTAA would provide a vital measure of stability.”


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TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.