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Open Internet central to U.S. trade policy

Kenneth Corbin | Sept. 30, 2014
Administration officials say they are sympathetic to U.S. cloud service providers' concerns that data-localisation requirements, other restrictive policies and the fallout from Edward Snowden's revelations cut off access to foreign markets.

Daniel Sepulveda, deputy assistant secretary of state and the department's coordinator for international communications and information policy, says administration officials work in their negotiations to convince their counterparts of "the value of the platform as a source for development for your entire economy," rather than opting for protectionist policies that narrowly aim to prop up local tech companies.

Sepulveda also touts what he describes as a thoroughgoing, independent review of government surveillance activities that Obama commissioned, along with reforms the president set in motion to limit data collection and beef up oversight of the intelligence community.

Data Localization Hurts More Than It Helps
Google's Salgado argues that laws and policies that limit the cross-border flow of information often have the perverse effect of hurting the local economy by cutting off access to cloud services that could help businesses improve efficiencies and expand their market reach.

"There's an irony to it as well. There's a presumption ... that data localization laws are good for the local country that's imposing them," he says. "What it overlooks is the fact that local businesses of all types actually take advantage of the services that are offered by cloud providers. An awful lot of companies use the services of Google and Amazon and Salesforce and lots of other companies out there to run their business."

To that end, Bliss says the U.S. Trade Representative's office is pressing partner nations to sign onto concrete language supporting cross-border data flows and rejecting server and data localization requirements, among other provisions, in the discussions over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal the United States is negotiating with 11 other Asia-Pacific nations.

Sepulveda is quick to point out that the promotion of an open Internet is hardly a U.S. trade priority alone. Indeed, many policymakers around the world are warming to the potential economic benefit from a truly global cloud regime, where data can flow unimpeded across political borders.

Earlier this year, for instance, Brazilian lawmakers pulled controversial language mandating foreign tech firms to store data locally from an Internet regulation bill, striking what Sepulveda sees as the "biggest localization threat" among recent policy proposals to come up for debate.

"We're seeing that kind of educational process taking place around the world," he says. "There's a glass-half-full story to be told here. We're making some good and significant progress with our colleagues abroad."


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