November 07, 2023

Warren, Schakowsky Lead 10 Lawmakers Commending Biden Administration for Countering Big Tech Influence in Trade Negotiations

U.S. Trade Representative Rejected Big Tech’s Efforts to Undermine Biden Administration's Competition Policy Agenda in Trade Deals

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce, led 10 lawmakers in a letter to President Joe Biden, commending his administration’s actions countering Big Tech’s influence in trade negotiations, and asking him to replace “digital trade” provisions lobbied for by Big Tech in Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) negotiations with new language to ensure regulatory agencies and Congress are able to counter Big Tech abuses and develop a new model for digital rules in trade agreements that promotes competition and protects workers, consumers, and small businesses. 

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) - Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) - Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, and Representatives, Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) - Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet), and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) - Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, signed the letter.

“Congress and administration agencies focused on digital governance are working to promote competition, safeguard Americans’ privacy and civil rights and liberties and develop policies to prevent harms related to artificial intelligence (AI). But some Big Tech interests seek to use their lobbyists and money to hijack IPEF negotiations to impose binding rules branded as ‘digital trade’ that may derail such government action,” wrote the lawmakers. 

The lawmakers thanked President Biden and U.S Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai for suspending negotiations on aspects of the IPEF digital text that could interfere with efforts by Congress and the administration to address privacy, AI, civil rights and liberties, anti-monopoly, gig worker and other digital policy. 

Additionally, the lawmakers applauded Ambassador Tai for withdrawing U.S. support for dangerous digital terms at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-Commerce, including provisions that would allow Big Tech companies to prevent scrutiny of their algorithms and source code for potentially discriminatory effects, and to store and transmit private consumer data even in countries lacking domestic data protections.

“We urge you to now secure our shared competition and tech regulatory goals by replacing the problematic ‘digital trade’ provisions with new language that ensures U.S. regulatory agencies and Congress can counter Big Tech abuses. Reconceiving IPEF’s digital provisions is critical because the pact, if completed, will set binding rules for 40% of the global economy. We also urge you to develop a new model for digital rules in trade pacts that protect workers, consumers and smaller business, and to use these terms to update the U.S. approach in the WTO JSI and any future trade talks, including with Taiwan and Kenya, in which digital terms are contemplated,” wrote the lawmakers. 

“It is critical that fixes to the IPEF digital provisions safeguard the policy space we need to effectively regulate Big Tech. We are keen to see USTR continue to work collaboratively with the antitrust agencies on digital trade terms that might be contemplated for any future pacts. Indeed, it is critical that new terms are developed and used consistently across agreements and that our allies are informed that this is the new U.S. digital trade policy,” continued the lawmakers. 

Senator Warren has led efforts to push for trade policy that benefits American workers and the economy, not corporate interests:

  • In August 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Ambassador Tai, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, urging them to rebalance the trade advisory committee system to include the interests of of all pertinent stakeholders, including labor, environmental, and other public interests – not just big business.
  • In April 2023, Senator Warren led six of her colleagues in sending a letter to Ambassador Tai and Secretary Raimondo, reiterating concerns about the impact that including skewed digital trade rules in the IPEF will have on the U.S. government’s ability to promote competition, regulate AI, and protect consumer and worker privacy. The lawmakers are also urging USTR to prioritize transparency as they continue to negotiate IPEF.
  • In March 2023, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Warren questioned USTR Tai on the agency’s approach to digital trade policy in enforcement of existing rules and negotiation of the IPEF.
  • In October 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Secretary Raimondo underscoring the dangers of Big Tech’s digital trade agenda.
  • In August 2022, Senator Warren and Representative DeLauro sent a letter to USTR Tai, Secretary Raimondo, Secretary of Blinken, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, requesting that the agencies involved engage in robust consultation with Congress and outside stakeholders on the recently announced IPEF and APEP, and urging them learn from the failures of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
  • In July 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Secretary Raimondo raising questions about the revolving door between the Department of Commerce and Big Tech companies, and its potential impact on global digital trade rules.
  • In April 2022, Senators Warren and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) sent letters to USTR Katherine Tai and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo regarding their plans to negotiate an IPEF and how this new trade deal may impact U.S. workers. 
  • In April 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Warren secured a commitment from USTR Katherine Tai to bring a progressive, worker-centered approach to trade policy in her role as U.S. Trade Representative.