The digital revolution is transforming how companies trade. Digital commerce has allowed small businesses to sell globally, enabled larger companies to accelerate innovation, and driven growth and job creation in every sector of the economy.
On the heels of President Trump’s 12-day trip through Asia, and as U.S., Canadian, and Mexican negotiators convene for the fifth-round negotiations to update and modernize NAFTA, it is critical that the United States continue to strengthen alliances to ensure a level playing field for U.S. tech companies as they sell abroad.
U.S. companies are being threatened by many countries who seek to restrict digital trade, either to protect their own industries from competitors or to address other policy goals. For example, countries such as China, Russia, India, and others are imposing regulations on the movement of data or seeking access to the inner workings of America’s innovation secrets as they build up their technology sectors. U.S. companies need to be able to reach the fastest-growing parts of the world and not be compromised by the risk that their intellectual property will be stolen for competitive gain by another country.
That’s why it is crucial the Trump administration remains committed to the process of negotiating with our trading partners. This starts with NAFTA modernization, which could prove pivotal to ensuring we are able to protect digital trade in future negotiations with other countries. Fortunately, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have not wavered in their commitment to addressing digital trade in NAFTA 2.0. But there have been troubling signs that the U.S might withdraw from both the negotiations and the underlying trade agreement.
As with our hemispheric trading partners, Asian markets are vital to future growth for U.S. companies and the U.S.-based jobs they support. In fact, China is one of the world’s largest markets for the tech sector, and we must remain committed to negotiating market access in China where the U.S. is shut out or where new protectionist measures have been put into place, such as China’s recent Cybersecurity Law that requires companies to store their data in China and submit to security checks.
The U.S. is rightly focused on China and has launched trade investigations that could result in unilateral enforcement actions. But China’s potential reaction to unilateral sanctions could undermine U.S. competitiveness at home and abroad. The U.S. should endeavor to address the challenges China’s policies present while maintaining stability for U.S. companies.
After all, American tech companies depend on trade to help them sustain millions of jobs. In fact, global exports account for approximately $1 out of every $4 generated in the nation’s tech industry and support 4 in 10 American tech jobs. Technology companies employ more than 6.9 million Americans.
Whether it’s Canada, Mexico, China, or other key trading partners, those millions of workers need the U.S. to stay at the negotiating table to remain competitive. Walking away from the table or taking unilateral actions too quickly is short-sighted and may have a damaging effect on U.S. tech companies.
The future of digital trade and the jobs supported by it depends on strong U.S. leadership. Only then will we be able to set a new norm for the global digital economy, one that keeps on pace with dynamic American businesses of all sizes.
Stefanie Holland is director of International Government and Regulatory Affairs at CompTIA, a tech association.
[BIO] If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.