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32 Bipartisan Senators Call on White House to Reverse Course on Digital Trade and Stand Up to China, Support American Workers and Human Rights

Bipartisan coalition urges President Biden not to abandon global leadership in online rights and commerce to China and other authoritarian regimes

Washington, D.C.--U.S. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Chair Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) today called on President Biden to reaffirm America’s global economic leadership by reversing a decision by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to abandon long-held positions at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that allow the free flow of information across borders, protect against the forced transfer of American technology and promote open markets for digital goods exported by American creators and businesses. 

In addition to Crapo and Wyden, the letter is cosigned by Senators Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Budd (R-North Carolina), Cantwell (D-Washington), Capito (R-West Virginia), Cardin (D-Maryland), Carper (D-Delaware), Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Coons (D-Delaware), Cornyn (R-Texas), Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Cramer (R-North Dakota), Cruz (R-Texas), Daines (R-Montana), Gillibrand (D-New York), Grassley (R-Iowa), Johnson (R-Wisconsin), Kaine (D-Virginia), Kelly (D-Arizona), King (I-Maine), Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Lummis (R-Wyoming), Murray (D-Washington), Padilla (D-California), Risch (R-Idaho), Rosen (D-Nevada), Sinema (I-Arizona), Tillis (R-North Carolina), Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Young (R-Indiana),

For nearly 30 years, the United States, along with democratic allies like the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Singapore, South Korea and others, have supported the internet and free information flows as an engine of innovation and economic growth and a bulwark against authoritarian regimes that seek to dominate international digital rules.  Human rights and free expression advocates such as Freedom House raised concerns that USTR’s decision to withdraw support for key positions, without offering any alternatives, gives China, Russia and other repressive regimes an opening to advance policies allowing greater surveillance and censorship.  The U.S. creators, small businesses and major industries have also warned the USTR move will further China’s model for digital protectionism and allow unfair trade practices targeting U.S. employers.

“These commitments reflect bipartisan principles that, until now, the United States has strongly supported across political parties, administrations, and the federal government: an open internet that promotes the flow of information across borders to support American exports and American values.  USTR’s decision to abandon these commitments at the WTO creates a policy vacuum that China and Russia will fill,” the senators wrote

The WTO e-commerce negotiations have been supported by a wide range of American employers, including manufacturers, automakers, retailers, small businesses, creators in the film, music and book publishing industries, precision agriculture, logistics and semiconductor sectors. 

The senators emphasized that the U.S. can and should advance regulations to protect Americans’ privacy and security, and that the WTO principles involving data flows, intellectual property and unjustified data localization are compatible with smart regulation of tech and other industries. 

“Retreating from our longstanding principles without offering a viable alternative does not help U.S. workers, it does not help U.S. consumers, it does not help U.S. businesses, and it does not help U.S. allies; it only helps our adversaries,” they wrote.

Read the full letter here