U.S. Options to Engage on Digital Trade and Economic Issues in the Asia-Pacific

February 8, 2022


  • The United States faces the choice of being a rule maker or a rule taker on digital trade and economic policy in the Asia-Pacific, which is perhaps the most consequential region for U.S. economic, security, and political interests.
  • There are multiple ways to reengage, such as regional and bilateral agreements and cooperation. However, only one criterion will prove the United States is genuinely committed—willingness to negotiate binding digital trade rules.
  • Lacking Trade Promotion Authority, the administration could enact digital trade commitments via executive agreements. But it should develop a mechanism to ensure Congress has clear oversight of U.S. digital trade strategy.
  • Digital trade agreements are not a “race to the bottom,” as ideological opponents argue. Instead, current digital trade and economy agreements build up regulatory alignment on new digital and data-policy issues.
  • Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore—three key players in new digital trade initiatives—are not scofflaws on labor, consumer rights, or regulation. Nor have trade agreements stopped them from enacting their own digital and data regulations.
  • The administration and Congress hopefully will seize the opportunity of having likeminded, value-sharing trading partners enthusiastically signaling their willingness to work with the United States on new, meaningful, and binding commitments.