Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Google's Free Trade Manifesto

On November 15, 2010, Google posted an interesting white paper that outlines its trade agenda.  "Enabling Trade in the Era of Information Technologies:  Breaking Down Barriers to the Free Flow of Information" describes the importance of the Internet to economic growth, the dramatic increase in governmental interference with the Internet, how these restrictions conflict with existing international trade rules (e.g., GATS), and Google's vision for "free trade" in Internet-related services. 

Google candidly acknowledges that this is "pretty wonky stuff."  (I'd say that is an understatement.)  If you strip out the wonky alphabet soup of trade acronyms (WTO, GATS, APEC, KORUS, etc.) and trade lingo (market access, national treatment, transparency, etc.) the message boils down to:  the Internet is unique so instead of interfering with it, governments should ensure that international trade rules promote free trade in Internet-related services. 

What I find particularly refreshing is that Google acknowledges that existing trade agreements do not necessarily address all of the issues it raises so it asks policy makers to: 

ensure that rules in the next generation of trade agreements reflect new challenges of Internet trade. In this new era, addressing the trade-related problems posed by government censorship and disruption of the Internet will be critical. Fresh, creative thinking will be required in order to properly address the unprecedented problems and opportunities that arise every day.

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