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Commerce Secretary Locke Remarks on Global Flow of Information on the Internet, June 2011

Speaker: Gary Locke
Published June 16, 2011

Commerce Secretary Locke gave these remarks on June 16, 2011, at the Chamber of Commerce. He discussed the international challenges faced by the Internet Policy Task Force, which was launched to safeguard consumer privacy, improve cybersecurity, and protect intellectual property online.

Excerpt from the speech, previewing the Internet Policy Task Force report:

"With this in mind, this summer, the Commerce Department will publish a report outlining policy directions we believe the U.S. government should take to make things easier for you and your fellow business-owners.

My aim is for the report to be precise as to what type of foreign restrictions on information currently face U.S. companies. We want to understand the rationales that foreign policymakers offer for why these restrictions have been instituted.

We want to articulate what impact they have had on innovation, economic development, and global trade and investment and what potential solutions exist. That's why we sought public comment from industry and other stakeholders.

Our report is still in progress, but I'd like to share with you the key themes we have identified so far:

  • Restrictive rules on the flow of information can drastically hurt business revenues, for companies of all sizes.
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, companies are less likely to invest in markets where government restrictions are imposed on the free flow of information.
  • Limitations of e-commerce that result from technical blocking have the same impact as shuttering a brick-and-mortar business or blocking a physical trade port.
  • Requiring companies to re-engineer technologies and equipment to comply with government-imposed restrictions can significantly increase the cost of doing business.
  • Restricting Internet services harms the productivity of downstream business users.
  • New applications will not be deployed as readily in restrictive markets, so countries and markets that restrict data flows may lose in terms of competitiveness.

With these themes in mind, we're circling a few possible policy fixes including the option of treating these restrictions as non-tariff trade barriers and thus adapting existing trade tools accordingly. "

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