USMCA Trade Pact Passes Senate

Tech companies were celebrating the Senate's passage Thursday (Jan. 16) of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which includes key digital trade provisions. 

Tech trade group ITI had sent a letter Wednesday (Jan. 15) to all the members of the Senate urging that passage. 

The bill, which passed the House last month, includes digital trade provisions that those companies say appropriately promote cross-border data flows and storage.  It now goes to the President's desk for his signature.

Related: Sec. 230 Language Remains in USMCA 

Social media platforms will continue to be held harmless for third-party content on their web sites under the agreement, though according to the compromise, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and other Dems, had wanted it scrubbed.  Sen. John Warner (D-Va.) was one of those.  He said the section "has allowed internet intermediaries to ignore misuse of their platforms by bad actors." 

Increasingly legislators are challenging the provision, which gives online platforms like Google and Facebook copyright liability protection from third-party content. 

Language in the compromise USMCA maintains that the civil liability carve-out "enhances the economic viability of these engines of growth that depend on user interaction and user content."  

“The Motion Picture Association applauds the Senate for passing the USMCA today," said MPA Chairman Charles Rivkin. "Currently, the U.S. film, television, and streaming content industry accounts for $17.2 billion annually in exports and registers a positive trade balance with nearly every country in the world. The USMCA will help the future of our industry look brighter, particularly in Mexico. This deal includes provisions that facilitate the growth of the legal, digital market for creative content while improving tools to address the threat of online piracy, which costs the industry up to $71 billion of revenue lost annually." 

He said he hoped future trade deals would similarly account for a "constantly changing digital landscape." 

“The North American Free Trade Agreement will receive a welcomed update in the form of USMCA," said Computer & Communications Industry Association President Matt Schruers. "The parties are bringing North American commerce into the digital age with robust rules that will prove critical to the continued growth of the Internet economy.” 

"“Ratification of the USMCA offers first-of-its-kind, cutting-edge digital trade provisions that recognize the reality of the 21st century economy and represents a key step forward for U.S. leadership in innovation and digital trade,” said ITI President Jason Oxman. "Half of all value created in the global economy over the next decade will be created digitally, yet North America’s current trade pact mentions the telegraph – but not the internet. We applaud the U.S. Senate for ratifying the USMCA and setting a new standard that will assure a thriving, innovative North American economy.”  

"This agreement includes important digital trade updates — a ban on data localization requirements, prohibition on duties on electronic commerce and intermediary liability protections— that are important for American small businesses," said Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro.  

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.