The Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, the precursor to the NAFTA, was the first enforceable trade agreement to cover services. It’s always easier to negotiate with a few parties, than with many, especially when breaking new ground. But in this proposal to introduce new binding commitments in a tripartite agreement, they are proposing to take a chapter from a large plurilateral agreement and use it in a trilateral agreement.
The NAFTA Parties could negotiate a new NAFTA Chapter on Digital Trade, using the Trans-Pacific Partnership e-commerce chapter as a starting point. Such provisions, which would be used in subsequent free trade agreements involving the NAFTA Parties, would provide an important counterweight to countries that are imposing unjustified restrictions on data flows; requiring that data storage be localized or that source code or other intellectual property be shared with local partners as a condition of doing business; restricting access to online content, which is creating a balkanized Internet; and undermining the private sector’s role in developing and maintaining a free and open Internet. New disciplines could include a chapter on cybersecurity that trilateralizes a private sector-led, standards-based, risk-based, non-regulatory approach to cybersecurity and resiliency; and provisions on other digital economy issues, such as enhancing the digital skills of the North American workforce, providing sufficient digital infrastructure to support deployment of 5G, the Internet of Things, and Smart Cities, and promoting a healthy business environment for development of autonomous vehicle technology throughout North America and globally.