Technology

Senate Dem wants to rewrite online trade rules in NAFTA

Keren Carrion

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants the U.S. to renegotiate the online trade provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee called for reducing tariffs and red tape on small online sellers, moving to stop data localization, and a “balanced approach to copyright” that “ensures the free flow of ideas around the world” during a speech organized by the Internet Association at the Capitol on Thursday.

The Internet Association is a Google-backed trade group the represents some of tech’s biggest companies, including Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft.

Wyden’s comments come as President Trump moves to rewrite NAFTA, a trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Trump has called the pact unfair to American workers and says he can get the U.S. a “better deal.”

Wyden said he wanted to seize on the talks to address new issues with the online economy since the deal took effect in 1994. He called it “outdated.”

{mosads}“It’s great that platforms like eBay, Etsy and Amazon can connect a small business in Bend, Ore., with billions of foreign customers,” Wyden said. “But small business won’t be able to benefit if decades-old trade rules drafted with big business in mind aren’t updated for today’s economy.”

Representatives from Internet Association members, including Amazon, Etsy, Google and eBay, were at the meeting and expressed praise for Wyden’s remarks.

They said they wanted to see sellers on their platforms access an international market.

The Oregon senator also said he would like provisions to keep the internet as an open platform for “commerce, speech and the free exchange of ideas,” included in an updated NAFTA. 

Wyden pointed to the Canadian Supreme Court’s recent decision forcing Google to remove some sites from its search results as an example of where the current version of the trade pact falls short.

And he called for defending net neutrality in the U.S.

“At the same time the U.S. works on promoting digital trade rules abroad, it’s vital to protect the open internet here at home. This is where the net neutrality battle comes in,” Wyden said. 

Republican Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is moving to roll back the Obama-era internet rules, which bar companies from treating web traffic differently or prioritizing certain content.

“Rolling back net neutrality would amount to sabotaging our own effort to grow the digital economy and promote free speech online,” Wyden said.

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