On January 29, after more than three tumultuous years, the European Parliament in Brussels ratified the Brexit agreement that governs Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
That withdrawal became official at midnight January 31 and started the clock on the processes that will help to define the rules of the road for Britain and its new relationship with the EU countries, and others, going forward.
Among the many important discussions that will ensue between now and the end of this year, trade and commerce are likely to be at the top of the agenda. Many expected that with the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement now signed by the president, the U.S. priority would be to focus on trade efforts with Britain and the EU.
In fact, the initial bilateral talks between the United States and Britain are apparently already underway.
As Britain prepared for its withdrawal from the EU, there was a significant development that took place. British officials determined that the Chinese supplier, Huawei, could have a role providing the high-speed network equipment needed by wireless carriers, building up to 35 percent of Britain’s 5G cellular network.
The United States had appropriately warned Britain and others of potential Huawei technology security threats. To be sure, this is not going to be the last technology-based development with which government officials will need to wrestle.
There is a way, however, to get in front of these types of issues. We should use all forthcoming trade negotiation opportunities to collaborate, in a sense of common interest, to integrate these complex technology issues within the text of the digital chapters of the trade agreement provisions.
Doing this will add much needed transparency to decision-making and build the frameworks that will mitigate the possibility of disputes that can be manifested when sorting through differing points of view, many of which may be directed at protection of national interests.
Several months ago, I mentioned in a related Hill article (USMCA Ratification Will Secure U.S. Digital Trade Leadership), that the evolution of the internet, digital trade and the growing prominence of e-commerce over the last couple of decades has become a much more important policy agenda issue for government officials across the globe.
Technology advancements like those we are seeing with 5G networks are an excellent example that will dramatically amplify the speed and scope of digital trade and e-commerce. The new technologies are certainly welcome as they enhance the efficiencies and benefits of commerce but will also bring with them new challenges as trading partners are seeking to align systems to protect valuable data, personal information, and national security.
Anticipating these technology advancements is imperative if we are to have a smoothly functioning e-commerce system. Having workable trade agreements in place that comprehend the introduction of new technologies in advance will be a significant step toward building a more collaborative and secure global information system and will provide a sound foundation to mitigate operating system disputes.
With the already sound contemporary digital trade provisions in the USMCA now in place, it is now the time to construct and advance the additional technology provision frameworks that are sure to be needed.