Four senators fight for protection of cross-border data flows in TPP

A bipartisan group of top senators on Friday urged U.S. trade officials to protect cross-border data flows in an Asia-Pacific trade deal.

The four Senate committee leaders sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanOn The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks US trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report MORE urging him to resist any proposal in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would limit the cross-border storage, processing or transfer of data, which is a crucial part of U.S. business operations in digital global trade.

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), panel ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, respectively, argued that the data flows “power the 21st century global economy."

"We urge you to stand firm against efforts by other countries to seek reservations and overly broad exceptions that would undermine these obligations and provide lower levels of protection for trade in digital goods and services as compared to other areas of trade," they wrote.

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Chairman Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) also sent letters to USTR on the issue. 

Ministers of the 12-nation TPP trade deal are beginning three days of negotiations in Sydney.

“It is clear that a TPP agreement must include meaningful, clear obligations, enforceable through a strong and effective dispute settlement mechanism, that prohibit unnecessary limitations on the cross-border transfer, storage and processing of data or the physical location of computing infrastructure,” they wrote.

U.S. companies move data across the Internet to provide digital goods and services to consumers around the world. 

“These letters make clear that protecting the free flow of data is bigger than an industry or partisan concern," said Victoria Espinel, president and CEO of The Software Alliance.

"Securing meaningful, enforceable rules on cross-border data flows in the TPP is essential for businesses around the world that depend on a cohesive digital marketplace."

A recent report from the International Trade Commission found that the Internet lowers the cost of trade and allows companies to be more efficient, boosting U.S. growth and increasing wages and jobs.