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TPP, ISA and the Cloud

This month negotiators from 11 countries are gathering in Singapore for an important round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement. As it happens, Singapore provides the perfect backdrop for understanding the opportunity countries have to expand trade in digital services. Singapore has vaulted into the tier of countries with the best policy frameworks to support the growth of information technology’s hottest sector right now: cloud computing. It has done so, as the new edition of BSA’s Global Cloud Computing Scorecard illustrates, by enacting a law that balances privacy protections for consumers with the regulatory flexibility to encourage business innovation.

TPP negotiators would do well to take note of that and other Singaporean policies supporting innovation. To foster the growth of cloud computing, Singapore now has some of the most modern digital economy laws in the world, supporting businesses already generally unfettered by tariffs and government intervention.

By contrast, Vietnam — also a TPP member — is considering a series of regressive measures that would hinder the flow of data across its borders and require cloud service providers to locate data centers inside its borders. The Scorecard demonstrates how policies such as this contribute to a counterproductive patchwork that chops the cloud into country-sized pieces worth less than the sum of their parts.

Research firm IDC estimates the cloud is set to drive more than $1 trillion in business revenues globally, so ironing out the policy patchwork is an urgent priority. To that end, TPP negotiators have a tremendous opportunity to set a marker for the world. High on their agenda should be explicitly preventing countries from inhibiting cross-border data flows or imposing restrictive data-location requirements on service providers.

The TPP is fortunately just one forum to advance digital trade in the cloud era. In January, the Obama Administration announced it would begin negotiating the International Services Agreement (ISA) with the European Union, Japan, and 18 other major economies. With cloud and other IT offerings moving more into the services realm, BSA testified to US trade negotiators this week on the importance of using the ISA as another critical platform to reinforce policies against restricted data flows, forced localization and procurement preferences for national providers.

We know what works for the cloud: a legal and regulatory framework that fosters innovation and trade, provides incentives to build the infrastructure to support it, and promotes confidence that using the cloud will bring the anticipated benefits without sacrificing expectations of privacy, security, and safety. Not every country will write its rules the same way. But as long as they can agree to a similar set of core principles, the cloud’s future will remain bright.

Robert Holleyman

Author:

As President and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance from 1990 until April 2013, Robert Holleyman long served as the chief advocate for the global software industry. Before leaving BSA to start his own venture, Cloud4Growth, Holleyman led the most successful anti-piracy program in the history of any industry, driving down software piracy rates in markets around the world.

Named one of the 50 most influential people in the intellectual property world, he was instrumental in putting into place the global policy framework that today protects software under copyright law. A widely respected champion for open markets, Holleyman also was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, the principal advisory committee for the US government on trade matters.

Holleyman was a leader in industry efforts to establish the legal framework necessary for cloud-computing technologies to flourish. He was an early proponent for policies that promote deployment of security technologies to build public trust and confidence in cyberspace. And he created a highly regarded series of forums for industry executives and policymakers to exchange points of view and forge agreements on the best ways to spur technology advances and promote economic growth.

Before heading BSA, Holleyman was a counselor and legislative adviser in the United States Senate, an attorney in private practice, and a judicial clerk in US District Court. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, a J.D. from Louisiana State University, and has completed the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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