Senator John Thune
The frenzy of the holiday shopping season may have come to a close, and while I still do most of my shopping locally, the growing importance of digital goods and services proved once again to be one of the key economic drivers of the holiday shopping season. According to a pre-holiday survey by Accenture, 47 percent of shoppers planned to make purchases online during the holiday season. Shoppers continue to cite the mobility and convenience of their tablets and smartphones as reasons for increasing their online purchases.
Americans know that the increased connectivity of the Internet has transformed the U.S. economy, but it is also a vital player in international trade. Trade in digital goods and services is now a driver of the American economy, and it is steering global innovation and economic growth. Exports of digitally enabled services were $356 billion in 2011, up from $282 billion four years earlier. These exports exceed imports year after year and contribute to shrinking the long-standing U.S. trade deficit.
The growth in the economy due to digital trade is being threatened by rising digital protectionism by several of our trading partners. In response to this rising protectionism, the world has been compelled to establish trade rules that prevent discrimination and promote innovation and competition. However, these rules were last updated before the Internet age, and they too often fail to ensure that American Internet-related businesses have the freedom to compete and innovate. It is imperative that the U.S. fight for strong rules to ensure that American businesses have the freedom to remain competitive all around the world.
That’s why I have introduced legislation with Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that would establish negotiating principles to address several key digital trade matters in future trade agreements. Under these principles, U.S. businesses would be able to continue sending and receiving information from consumers and business partners in different parts of the world without unfair Internet restrictions from foreign countries. My legislation would require the president to prioritize digital trade and ensure it benefits from robust and enforceable rules.
Congress has an important role to play in ensuring secure trade rules that promote and preserve a global, open Internet. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to establish new trade rules that preserve the Internet as a platform to share ideas and ensure the digital economy continues to flourish.