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US Drops Digital Trade Demands at WTO to Regulate Big Tech Firms

The US Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, has withdrawn longstanding American digital trade demands during World Trade Organization (WTO) talks. This move aims to provide Congress with the necessary space to regulate big tech companies. Previously proposed in 2019 by the Trump administration, the demands sought to ensure that WTO e-commerce rules enable free cross-border data flows while prohibiting national requirements for data localization and reviews of software source code. Though this decision has angered some lawmakers and business groups, who believe it will disadvantage US firms, it aligns with the Biden administration’s efforts to strengthen the regulation of large technology firms. Senator Ron Wyden has criticized the move, claiming it strengthens China’s model of internet censorship and government surveillance. However, Senator Elizabeth Warren and others support Tai’s decision, arguing that it rejects attempts by big tech lobbyists to use trade deals to hinder regulation. The move has prompted calls from the US Chamber of Commerce to reverse the decision, with the business lobby group claiming that the digital trade principles have garnered overwhelming congressional support and have contributed to making US tech firms “the envy of the world.”

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