What you should know
Big Tech interests are attempting to hijack trade negotiating venues and twist trade policy concepts to lock in binding international rules that limit governments from regulating online platforms in the public interest and from fighting corporate concentration and monopoly power. These interests are pushing international agreements and domestic policies that quietly undermine efforts in Congress and U.S. agencies to counter Big Tech abuses. To obscure this, they have misbranded their attack against the very notion of digital governance as “e-commerce” or “digital trade” policy initiatives. This is a multi-front effort that includes what is formally called the World Trade Organization (WTO) “Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce” negotiations now underway in Geneva among 80-plus countries, a plurilateral Pacific Rim “Digital Economic Partnership Agreement” (DEPA), and various bilateral negotiations. The Big Tech strategy replicates pharmaceutical firms’ 1990s maneuver of hijacking “free trade” agreements to insert provisions that require signatory countries to provide the corporations extended monopoly protections, thus limiting policies that could lower drug prices. The anti-worker, anti-consumer, and anti-civil rights “digital trade” proposals being pushed by Big Tech at the WTO and in other fora would undermine domestic policy space on important issues like gig economy worker protections, discrimination and algorithm transparency, competition policy and anti-trust, corporate liability, and consumer privacy.