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U.S. Statement at the Informal Meeting of the Joint Statement Initiative on Digital Trade
January 27, 2020

Statement delivered by Dennis Shea, Deputy USTR and Ambassador to the World Trade Organization

I would like to thank the co-conveners, Australia, Japan and Singapore, for bringing us together this morning, and for their leadership in advancing this Joint Statement Initiative on Digital Trade over the past two years. I would also like to note the positive outcome we achieved in December on the multilateral moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions.  We look forward to discussions on that topic in the coming months, including discussion of recent studies that clearly demonstrate the economic value of the moratorium and the importance of its continuation.

Of course, within the JSI on digital trade, we aim higher.  When we kicked off this initiative two years ago, it was an effort to move beyond the gridlock of multilateral discussions, and allow more ambitious members to make more ambitious commitments.

The United States has been glad to be on the leading edge of that effort.  Our text proposal, circulated last April, is focused on high standard rules that address real-world barriers to digital trade.  For example, our proposal includes clear and effective rules that ensure firms can move data across borders and are not subject to harmful and unnecessary data localization requirements.

In today’s economy, firms of all sizes, across all industries depend upon the international movement of data to trade in goods and services, and rules ensuring cross-border data flows are fundamental to any agreement addressing digital trade. Our proposal also includes rules that protect source code against forced disclosure, provide non-discriminatory treatment for digital products, and, of course, prohibit customs duties on electronic transmissions.

If we negotiate an agreement that includes such commercially significant outcomes, we will help ensure that the commercial landscape of the 21st century is free, fair, and market-oriented, and we can rightfully consider this initiative a great success.

If, instead, we lower our ambition, we would merely demonstrate the WTO’s inability to keep pace with our fast-moving global economy.

We look forward to continuing our active participation in this initiative in 2020, and working with other participants to produce a consolidated text by MC12 that furthers our progress toward a high standard WTO agreement on digital trade.