December 13, 2016 by Carl
Yesterday, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced a doubling of the Digital Attaché program. The program already covers Brazil, China, the European Union, India, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Japan. The expansion will include South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Germany, and France. This is a group of well-chosen countries.
South Korea is the world’s 14th largest economy. The world’s first free trade agreement to include provisions on data flows is the U.S.-South Korea Agreement (KORUS) – see Article 15.8. South Korea is also a crucial diplomatic partner for the United States, particularly in standing up for non-discriminatory trading practices throughout Asia and beyond.
Indonesia is of course huge. It is also a very challenging market for U.S. companies in part because of data localization requirements there. These requirements are so economically significant that the European Center for International Political Economy (ECIPE) estimates that for Indonesia, the cost of data localization is 0.5% of GDP.
Mexico is one of the United States’ most important trading partners. Moreover, if NAFTA were to be modified, including modern digital trade provisions would be a logical element in any NAFTA renegotiation. So, stationing an attaché in Mexico City makes eminent sense.
South Africa is both an economic and political power in Africa. It also has sufficient scale and human capital to justify expanding the program to that nation.
Given that there is already a Digital Attaché in Brussels, the question is why add Berlin and Paris? This is worthwhile because these EU Member States are often the drivers of policy within the EU.
The Digital Attaché program is a worthwhile investment in precious U.S. government diplomatic resources. For the program to work effectively, it is important that the Attaches are able to draw upon all the resources of the government and be empowered, after having obtained all the necessary clearances, to speak on behalf of the whole government. This is consistent with the broad mission for the U.S. Digital Attaché program that SIIA supports.
Carl Schonander is Senior Vice President for Global Public Policy.