Trump Signs New USMCA Trade Agreement with Digital Updates

President Trump's signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the trade agreement that supplanted NAFTA, triggered praise from the Motion Picture Association, the Computer & Communications Association (CCIA) and the veritable host of others. 

Canada has yet to ratify it, but is expected to shortly. 

The bill includes digital trade provisions that tech companies say appropriately promote cross-border data flows and storage. 

"USMCA contains new protections for American intellectual property, ensuring strong, effective protection for American innovators and creators," said the White House. " 

Included in USMCA is a first-of-its-kind chapter on digital trade, which the decades-old NAFTA was never updated to address," it said. "The digital trade provisions included in this agreement will foster economic growth and innovation for years to come."

Related: USMCA Passes Senate 

Another reason computer companies are pleased was that the agreement preserved language related to edge provider's Sec. 230 exemption from liability for third-party content posted on their platforms. There was a bipartisan, but unsuccessful, effort to strike that language by legislators on both sides of the aisle, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

Related: USMCA Passes House 

Increasingly legislators are challenging the provision, which gives online platforms like Google and Facebook copyright liability protection from third-party content. But language in the USMCA pact maintains that the civil liability carve-out "enhances the economic viability of these engines of growth that depend on user interaction and user content."   

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders immediately slammed the deal and said it would not stand if he became President. "As the only leading presidential candidate to oppose Trump’s NAFTA 2.0, I am pledging today that upon being sworn in as president, I will immediately begin renegotiating this disastrous deal," he said.  

Hollywood producers were not on the same page as Sanders.  

“The Motion Picture Association congratulates President Trump, Ambassador Lighthizer, Leader McConnell, and Speaker Pelosi for their leadership in passing USMCA," said MPA chairman Charles Rivkin. "This important, bipartisan trade agreement ensures a bright future for the creative community. The film, television, and streaming content industry already accounts for $17.2 billion annually in exports and registers a positive trade balance with nearly every country in the world. USMCA will help facilitate the growth of the legal digital market for creative content while addressing the multi-billion dollar threat of online piracy. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress on future trade deals that build on USMCA and further improve protections for creators in this constantly evolving digital landscape.” 

“CCIA applauds the Administration and members of Congress that worked to get USMCA across the finish line," said CCIA president Matt Schruers. "This bipartisan modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement for the digital age is a win across the board and sets the standard for trade agreements going forward.”  

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) saw it the same way. 

"The signing of the bipartisan USMCA represents a significant step forward for U.S. leadership in innovation and digital trade and sets a global precedent for modern, rules-based trade," said ITI president Jason Oxman. "Its first-of-its-kind, cutting-edge digital trade provisions recognize the reality of the 21st century economy and provide certainty and predictability to businesses across all sectors in North America and beyond. Importantly, the pact boosts the U.S. economy and competitiveness globally while preserving and strengthening the United States’ economic relationship with Canada and Mexico—two of its largest trading partners. We urge Canada to ratify this agreement soon and remain committed to seeing all three countries implement the agreement’s provisions to ensure that the North American economy can reap the benefits of this high-standard agreement going forward.”

John Eggerton

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.