News / Economy

Report: US Boosted by Digital Trade, but Barriers Remain

FILE - The new Google Nexus 7 tablet, made by Asus is displayed during a Google special event at Dogpatch Studios in San Francisco, California, July 24, 2013.
FILE - The new Google Nexus 7 tablet, made by Asus is displayed during a Google special event at Dogpatch Studios in San Francisco, California, July 24, 2013.
A new U.S. government report on Thursday highlighted both the growing importance of digital trade to the United States and a long list of trade barriers that American internet and other online companies face around the world.
“The increase in digital trade is having a significant impact on the U.S. and global economy,” the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) said in the first of two reports on the issue requested by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus at the urging of Senator Ron Wyden, both Democrats.
“This report shows that the digital economy represents an American trade advantage but it also identified barriers that are stifling further growth,” Wyden said.
As U.S. trade negotiators pursue free trade agreements in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, “it is important that these barriers are addressed so that U.S. digital trade can reach its full potential as a driving force behind the U.S. economy,” the Oregon senator said.
The study comes as the United States is pushing in trade talks to open new markets for leading U.S. internet companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which have already helped make the United States the world's largest exporter of digital services.
That has become more complicated after revelations that the National Security Agency was mining personal data from top U.S. internet companies including under a secret program named Prism.
The Washington-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation this month estimated U.S. cloud computing providers could lose $21.5 billion to $35.0 billion in revenue over the next three years if foreign customers decide the risk of storing data with a U.S. company outweighed the benefits.
The German government responded this week to concerns raised by the Prism surveillance program by agreeing on initial plans to boost European technology companies and make them a more favorable alternative to U.S. peers.
In its report, the ITC acknowledged the difficulty of estimating digital trade because of the lack of a standard definition and shortcomings in available data.
But U.S. exports of “digitally-enabled” services, one measure of digital trade, totaled $356.1 billion in 2011, a 26 percent increase from $282.1 billion in 2007, covering areas such as financial services, retail services, professional services, healthcare, logistics and education, the ITC said.
Europe, with its strong internet infrastructure, is the most important digital trading partner for the United States and is also an important destination for U.S. digital trade-related foreign direct investment, the ITC said.
One impediment to increased trade are foreign government  policies that compel digital companies to use local data servers, technology and inputs or that provide procurement preferences for local firms, the report said.
Many “localization” requirements are justified on data privacy grounds, and it is often challenging to determine whether they are imposed for that purpose or to favor the country's domestic firms, the ITC said.
Different approaches to data privacy protection can also be an obstacle to trade, an issue that U.S. firms hope to address in talks with the 27-nation European Union on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership pact.
In another area, U.S. music, book, software and movie companies view digital piracy of copyrighted material as their biggest obstacle to increased online exports, while “internet intermediaries” such as Google and Facebook are more concerned about foreign laws that could hold them liable for the actions of users on their networks.
In one instance, “the Italian government brought a criminal case against several Google executives for a video posted by a YouTube user that showed the bullying of a disabled student, despite the fact that Google had a notice and take-down system in place that resulted in the prompt removal of the video from the site,” the ITC said.
U.S. digital companies complain that censorship in countries including China, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia also hurts their business operations, as do restrictive immigration policies and complicated customs procedures, the ITC said.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.