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Congressional Backlash Mounts Following Biden Administration’s Abandonment of Key Bipartisan Digital Trade Proposals

November 18, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden Administration is facing sharp criticism from Congress after the U.S. Trade Representative’s office announced its plans to abandon important bipartisan trade proposals at the World Trade Organization designed to increase American competitiveness, protect workers and businesses, and ensure fairness in the global digital economy.

Ways and Means Committee members and Co-Chairs of the Digital Trade Caucus, Reps. Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA), led a bipartisan letter on Thursday urging U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to reconsider her agency’s decision – a decision that was made without sufficient consultation with Congress and which would cede more leverage to foreign powers, like China, to write the rules that will govern the global digital economy.

Excerpt from the letter:

American leadership in shaping digital trade rules is critical for competing globally in the long-term and countering the unfair trade practices of other foreign powers, including the PRC. We are especially concerned by the PRC’s efforts to advance a model of digital governance domestically and through its Digital Silk Road Initiative that permits censorship, surveillance, human and worker rights abuses, forced technology transfers, and data flow restrictions…

“The void created by this decision will harm American workers, companies, security, and innovation, while benefitting our largest competitors in the digital space. We reiterate our request for the administration to reassess its decision.

You can read the full text of the letter here.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) released the following statement in October expressing concern with USTR’s decision:

“The Biden Administration’s decision to walk away from longstanding bipartisan positions on digital trade undermines American leadership and competitiveness, surrenders the playing field to the Chinese Communist Party, and abandons our closest trading partners. There is absolutely nothing in the Biden Administration’s decision that will benefit American workers. Moreover, if the Administration does not reverse course and support high-standard digital trade provisions like those included in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, American businesses that serve customers around the world will have to risk handing away their competitive advantage and storing data on unreliable, unsecured servers such as those of Chinese companies like Huawei.”

“This foolish approach is part of a broader, misguided policy of the Biden Administration to circumvent the will of Congress with a go-it-alone approach to trade policy. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address these concerning developments, particularly given ongoing negotiations.”