Software giants push for trade deal

Executives at top software companies are pressuring lawmakers to support “fast-track” trade legislation.

Officials from Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and other major companies told top lawmakers on the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees Friday that their industry needs laws to protect against restrictions on the free flow of data.

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“To have a truly 21st Century trade regime, which empowers commercial opportunities where the Untied States has real competitive advantage, we need our negotiators to focus on these barriers specifically,” the 15 executives who sit on the board of BSA The Software Alliance wrote to lawmakers. 

“We urge prompt action on TPA [trade promotion authority] to set specific goals on open markets for digital trade.”

Software and tech companies have been pushing for lawmakers to pass fast-track authority and give the Obama administration new powers to negotiate trade deals. Congress could set priorities for negotiations through TPA but then would only be able to give up-or-down vote on trade deals. 

Of particular concern for the software companies are measures in other countries that restrict them from sending data easily or that require them to host servers within those countries' borders.

While countries often frame those policies as security measures, they are in many cases “simply aimed at creating opportunities for domestic entities to the disadvantage of American developers of software and providers of data services,” the companies wrote.

“We need trade agreements to address these market access restrictions on digital commerce directly.”