Digitrade Digest # 100


Activists Deliver 10,000 Petition Signatures Demanding Transparency Amid Ongoing Asia-Pacific Trade Talks

Trade Justice Education Fund: At Seattle APEC Meeting, Activists Demand “Big Tech and Other Corporate Interests Should Not Dictate Rules for the Global Economy Behind Closed Doors”

Hundreds of labor, human rights and other activists marched to the Seattle Convention Center on Sunday to deliver over 10,000 petition signatures calling for increased transparency in the ongoing Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) trade negotiations. The march and rally came as government officials from Washington, D.C., and IPEF countries throughout the Pacific Rim gathered in Seattle for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings discussing trade and other topics.

The petition called on trade negotiators to ensure that IPEF “utilizes a transparent and accountable negotiating process that includes the release of draft texts for public review.” It also called for any final deal to exclude “Big Tech-favored ‘digital trade’ rules,” such as those enabling consumers’ personal information to be shipped, processed, and stored overseas regardless of privacy and data security regulations, those helping companies to evade safeguards against A.I. discrimination and other abuses and those that undermine anti-trust and fair competition policies.

Other issues raised at the action included whether IPEF will improve labor rights enforcement relative to past trade agreements and whether it will take steps to prevent existing trade pacts from undermining government action on climate change.

Sen. Markey: Big Tech will use trade as ‘backdoor’ to avoid AI regulation

Inside US Trade: In a recent development, prominent U.S. technology companies and their trade associations have intensified their lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill to resist the imposition of artificial intelligence (AI) regulations. Furthermore, they are leveraging their influence in ongoing trade negotiations to impact digital trade provisions, aiming to thwart governmental actions in this domain. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) has accused "Big Tech" of using trade talks to undermine regulatory initiatives and has echoed the findings of a report released by Rethink Trade, a division of the American Economic Liberties Project.

The report, titled "Undermining AI Regulation in the U.S. and Abroad: The ‘Digital Trade’ Secrecy Ploy," argues that the industry’s primary objective is to obstruct governments from proactively monitoring, investigating, reviewing, or screening AI and algorithms. This is accomplished by advocating for rules that deny governments access to vital aspects, such as AI source code and detailed algorithm descriptions.

Rethink Trade Director Lori Wallach revealed that the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, a U.S.-led initiative in Asia focused on supply chains, decarbonization, anti-corruption, and trade, is currently a primary target of these efforts. Key figures involved in the digital trade aspects of this framework include U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Senator Markey expressed his support for the report during a recent webinar, shedding light on the tactics used by Big Tech in deploying "high-priced lobbyists" to Capitol Hill. These efforts are aimed at hindering nascent congressional endeavors to grant the government regulatory power over AI and its algorithms. Senator Markey cited his own "Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act" as an example of such legislation that is facing resistance from industry stakeholders.

According to Markey, corporations, including Big Tech, have a long-standing history of exploiting international trade agreements as a means to avoid regulation, a practice that is carried out behind closed doors with excessive secrecy and substantial corporate lobbying. He underscored the urgent need to address this issue to safeguard the public interest and maintain a fair regulatory framework for AI and digital trade.

U.N. Officials Urge Regulation of Artificial Intelligence

New York Times: The U.N. Security Council for the first time held a session on Tuesday on the threat that artificial intelligence poses to international peace and stability, and Secretary-General António Guterres called for a global watchdog to oversee a new technology that has raised at least as many fears as hopes.

On Tuesday, diplomats and leading experts in the field of A.I. laid out for the Security Council the risks and threats — along with the scientific and social benefits — of the new emerging technology. Much remains unknown about the technology even as its development speeds ahead, they said.

Mr. Guterres said a U.N. watchdog should act as a governing body to regulate, monitor and enforce A.I. regulations in much the same way that other agencies oversee aviation, climate and nuclear energy.

The proposed agency would consist of experts in the field who shared their expertise with governments and administrative agencies that might lack the technical know-how to address the threats of A.I.

But the prospect of a legally binding resolution about governing it remains distant. The majority of diplomats did, however, endorse the notion of a global governing mechanism and a set of international rules.

Mr. Guterres said that the United Nations must come up with a legally binding agreement by 2026 banning the use of A.I. in automated weapons of war.

Prof. Rebecca Willett, director of A.I. at the Data Science Institute at the University of Chicago, said in an interview that in regulating the technology, it was important not to lose sight of the humans behind it. The systems are not entirely autonomous, and the people who design them need to be held accountable, she said.

“This is one of the reasons that the U.N. is looking at this,” Professor Willett said. “There really needs to be international repercussions so that a company based in one country can’t destroy another country without violating international agreements. Real enforceable regulation can make things better and safer.”


Biden to sign order curbing US tech investments in China by mid-August

South China Post: The order focuses on semiconductors, AI and quantum computing, but will not affect existing investments and will only prohibit certain transactions

China’s envoy in Washington said earlier this month that Beijing would retaliate if the US imposes new limits on technology or capital flows

President Joe Biden is planning to sign an executive order to limit critical US technology investments in China by mid-August, according to people familiar with the internal deliberations.

The order focuses on semiconductors, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. It will not affect any existing investments and will only prohibit certain transactions. Other deals will have to be disclosed to the government.

The timing for the order, which is slated for the second week of August, has slipped many times before and there is no guarantee it will not be delayed again. But internal discussions have already shifted from the substance of the measures to the roll-out of the order and the accompanying rule, said the people familiar, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

China’s envoy in Washington said earlier this month that Beijing would retaliate if the US imposes new limits on technology or capital flows.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan first publicly discussed the concept in July 2021. Lawmakers from both parties have also shown interest in legislating on the matter although a bill has not yet made it to Biden’s desk.

The Senate this week passed an amendment to the national defence policy bill that would require firms to notify the government about certain investments in China and other countries of concern, although they would not be subject to review or possible prohibition.





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