New Editorial Raises Questions of Who Exactly Is Determining U.S. Digital Trade Policy

Washington, D.C. (2/13/2024) – A recent editorial from the Wall Street Journal raises even more questions about who from the Biden Administration is looking out for the best interests of American companies and consumers and the nation’s ability to compete internationally.

In the editorial, the Wall Street Journal delved into a cozy relationship between the Office of the United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai and certain advocates pursuing an agenda to undermine trade rules that benefit small businesses, consumers, and millions of workers in the digital economy. Unsurprisingly, some of these same groups have close ties to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, whose regulatory agenda promotes the interests of certain businesses over consumers. 

“While administration officials seeking outside opinions isn’t new, what’s alarming is the manner in which these radical theories are enabling the capitulation of America’s interests on the global stage and surrendering the interests of U.S. businesses and consumers,” said Chandler Smith Costello, a spokeswoman for the Don’t Break What Works campaign.  

In the fall of 2023, Trade Representative Tai withdrew support for key digital trade rules in the upcoming World Trade Organization negotiations – rules that reflected longstanding bipartisan support and were widely considered important for American companies of all sizes, from across multiple industries to be able to compete on the global stage. This follows her abandonment of these digital trade protections in the trade pillar of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. While claiming that a need for domestic “policy space” tied her hands, the reality is that coherent trade policy has navigated domestic constraints successfully for more than half a century, reconciling narrow regulatory goals with our broader economic and social interests. 

Tai’s move weakens the United States’ leadership in this area and has sounded multiple alarms. In January, 50 members of Congress wrote a letter expressing concern that the U.S. Trade Representative is undermining the “competitive edge of U.S. companies and small businesses” and also relinquishing “leadership to strategic competitors who remain actively engaged in ongoing digital trade discussions.”

In November, Co-Chairs of the Digital Trade Caucus Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Darin LaHood (IL-16) released a bipartisan letter with 38 other members of Congress urging Tai “to reconsider her agency’s decision to abandon important bipartisan digital trade proposals at the World Trade Organization.”

The Biden Administration has repeatedly shown its disinterest in standing up for American companies on the global stage and pushing back on protectionist policies. 

“It’s past time for the Biden Administration to start looking out for what’s best for American businesses and consumers and our international stature, rather than allowing our international competitors to take the reins,” Costello continued. 

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