September 13, 2016


Tech firms urge Congress to pass Pacific trade deal this year

Vicki Needham
The Hill

(This article originally appeared on The Hill on September 13)

Thirteen technology company leaders on Tuesday urged lawmakers to ratify an Asia-Pacific trade deal before Congress leaves for the year.

In a letter sent Tuesday to House and Senate leaders, the tech groups called on lawmakers to work with the Obama administration to reach an agreement that would allow for passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this year.

“Failure to pass this agreement will not only disadvantage American companies and the Americans who work for those companies, it will hamper the ability to negotiate new agreements, or even improve existing ones,” they wrote to leaders on Capitol Hill. “Our allies and trading partners in Asia are also looking to the U.S. for leadership in the global economy," the groups said.

"Passing the TPP will demonstrate the U.S. remains unambiguously committed to free trade and to strong leadership in the region."

U.S. technology companies exported $10 billion in goods and services to the TPP markets in 2014, they said.  

“The TPP will open or expand access to these key markets for the products, services and applications made by the companies we represent, and facilitate market access for the wide array of industries that rely on these technologies to conduct their own businesses,” they wrote. 

The letter was sent to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican and Democratic leaders of committees of jurisdiction — Senate Finance and House Ways and Means.

“This agreement creates a new standard for trade pacts with its forward-looking approach on technology products and services going far beyond just tariff reductions,” the tech groups wrote. 

“The agreement will keep borders open to the free flow of data, provide a strong and balanced intellectual property framework, prohibit data localization requirements and other barriers to digital trade, and protect trade secrets, among many other benefits," they said.

"And it promotes U.S. values of a free and open Internet."

Tech groups are one of the several business interests making their voices heard while Congress is in Washington for a brief session before the November elections.

Groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers say they are in full-court press mode to get TPP passed this year.

On Tuesday, the Chamber of Commerce started on 12-part series that will run over several weeks making the case for TPP’s approval.

“The U.S. Chamber believes that trade policy must take into account the needs of Americans as both consumers and producers," said John Murphy, the Chamber's senior vice president for international policy.

"Fairness should be our watchword: American workers, farmers and companies must be allowed to operate on a level playing field when it comes to trade," Murphy said.

"This is the principal rationale for trade agreements — and for the TPP."

For their part, National Pork Producers Council and the Footwear Distributors Retailers of America (FDRA) are two groups holding member fly-ins into Washington this week to canvass Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, House Democrats and anti-TPP groups on Wednesday will ask voters to call their lawmakers and urge them to reject a lame-duck vote on the TPP. 

President Obama is urging Congress to ratify the 12-nation agreement, which took years to negotiate, before he leaves office. 

Both presidential candidates — Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — oppose the Pacific agreement. 

Signers of the tech letter were: Allied for Startups, BSA/The Software Alliance, Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), CompTIA, Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), TechNet, Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), Internet Association (IA), Technology CEO Council (TCC) and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).

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