Commerce Digital Attachés Available to Assist Businesses in Navigating Twenty-First-Century Trade Barriers
By Curt Cultice, Senior Communications Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service
For companies facing digital economy trade barriers overseas, the U.S. Department of Commerce is here to help with the launch of its new Digital Attaché Program of U.S. Commercial Service officers around the world. These attachés serve as dedicated resources for U.S. businesses as they seek to increase exports through global e-commerce channels, and navigate digital economy-related challenges in foreign markets. Winter Casey, Senior Advisor for Internet Policy at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and a key member of the Commerce Department’s first digital economy team across bureaus, provides more information about how our Digital Trade Officers (DTOs) are helping U.S. companies succeed globally.
Q: What is the Digital Attaché Program?
Casey: The Department of Commerce is focused on ensuring that all U.S. companies have access to the digital economy and can reach global markets. To further this goal, the Commerce Department, through the Commercial Service of the International Trade Administration, this year launched an expert network of DTOs in U.S. embassies in key markets to help U.S. firms increase international market access, and overcome regulatory or policy challenges related to the digital economy.
Q: What is different about the Digital Attaché Program?
Casey: The Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Commercial Service trade professionals in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 75 countries help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increasing sales to new global markets. Many of our DTOs were assisting companies with digital economy barriers prior to being officially named as DTOs. This program puts a name on one way the Commercial Service has and will continue to help U.S. businesses. Commercial Service officers that are part of the program have received additional training from headquarters on digital economy-related issues.
Q: What types of issues have these DTOs been trained in?
Casey: Our DTOs have received training on twenty-first century barriers to trade including barriers to cross-border information flows and forced data localization policies that harm U.S. businesses. Our attachés have additionally received training on issues such as e-commerce relatedobligations in trade agreements, how to help small and medium-sized U.S. businesses export globally, the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system, privacy, cybersecurity, intellectual property, and more.
Q: Who is using our DTOs and who should be using them?
Casey: The DTOs are a resource for U.S. companies of all sizes looking to increase exports, access the global online marketplace, and navigate digital economy policy challenges.
Q: What are some of the twenty-first century trade barriers U.S. companies face?
Casey: The digital economy offers great opportunity, but challenges too. Governments around the world are increasingly pursuing protectionist policies that could restrict the free flow of information on the Internet. These rules, such as data localization requirements, present significant risks to the competitiveness of U.S. firms globally. For many digital economy and Internet companies, dealing with these potential regulatory and trade barriers, and advice on how best to enter new markets, is the kind of export assistance they really need.
Q: The pilot program wrapped up in September; what’s next for this initiative?
Casey: The original markets covered since March 2016 include Brazil, Japan, China, Singapore, India, and the EU. Based on industry feedback and our own evaluation of the program, the pilot program has been a success. In December 2016, the Department of Commerce said it will double the number of global markets serviced by the Digital Attaché Program from 6 to 12 officers. The new markets covered include France, Germany, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, and the Republic of Korea. The location and placement of those additional attachés was decided with input from stakeholders.
Q: You have said this program is part of an increase focused on digital economy issues at the Department of Commerce—can you explain?
Casey: This initiative is part of the department’s comprehensive effort to address twenty-first century trade barriers and support the digital economy’s continued growth. This has included the first Director of Digital Economy position, and the first Department of Commerce-wide Digital Economy Agenda. As part of this commitment, the department convened a Digital Economy Leadership Team, with staff-level working groups across the department to address issues such as the free flow of information. The Digital Attaché Program is an element of the department’s broader strategic agenda to promote the digital economy.