Industry Hails Tech Promotion Authority Bill

Tech companies and studios were celebrating Thursday after the introduction of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015.

The trade promotion authority bill was introduced by Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

The bill outlines the negotiating objectives that any administration has to follow in conducting trade talks, and requires Congress and the public to have access to information on trade deals before they are struck.

"Our nation has been without Trade Promotion Authority since 2007. So, while other nations have moved forward and created trade agreements to benefit their workers, the United States has fallen behind,” said Hatch.

The bill makes Congress a full partner in trade agreements. It also deals with cyber theft, trade secrets and intellectual property protection. The last is particularly important to content providers.

“As an industry that relies heavily on trade with foreign nations for our success, the American motion picture and television industry understands the importance of establishing beneficial trading relationships around the world. It is those types of relationships that allowed our industry to contribute $130 billion to the overall American economy, maintain $15.8 billion in exports worldwide and sustain a positive trade surplus of $13.4 billion all in 2013," said Motion Picture Association of America chairman and former senator Chris Dodd.

"By establishing clear rules for opening foreign markets to exports of U.S. creative content, promoting innovation and creativity through the protection and enforcement of U.S. intellectual property rights, and fostering legitimate digital trade that will benefit both of creators and consumers this legislation is an important step that will benefit American businesses, workers and the overall economy for years to come. We look forward to working to move this important legislation forward,” said Dodd.

Microsoft was applauding as well. The bill makes clear that all trade commitments apply to digital as well as physical trade.

"To ensure that electronically delivered goods and services are treated no less favorably than products delivered in physical form and classified so as to ensure the most liberal trade treatment possible," according to a summary of the bill.

“Passage of renewed TPA, with its updated objectives for digital trade, is critical for America to be able to pursue its interests," said Microsoft executive VP and general counsel Brad Smith. "And passage is important for Microsoft and our network of more than 400,000 partners, the majority of which are small businesses, to compete in the global economy. Our goal is to make technology more affordable, relevant, and accessible for the five billion people around the world who do not yet enjoy its benefits." 

"A modern, pro-innovation TPA that reflects today’s digital economy, addresses emerging digital trade issues, and unleashes this potential for growth is a top priority for the tech sector and America," said the Information Technology Industry Council. "We applaud Sens. Hatch and Wyden, and Rep. Ryan, for introducing legislation that can open new markets, and recognizes the importance of technology and the Internet to U.S. innovation, job creation, and economic growth. We urge Congress to swiftly pass this bill with strong bipartisan support.”

Not everyone was happy with the draft bill.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing said the legislators had let down manufacturers and workers with weak, unenforceable language on "trade law remedies and currency manipulation."

“Trade policy must put our workers and American manufacturers front and center," said AMA President Scott Paul. "The TPA bill draft doesn’t accomplish that. We know from experience that negotiating objectives, no matter how well intended, can and will be completely ignored."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.