By Jeremy Malcom
November 30, 2017
Article from EFF
NAFTA's Digital Trade Chapter Could Be Closed Before The Public's Even Seen a Word of It
The fifth round of negotiations over a modernized North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) wound up last week in Mexico. Following conclusion of the round, Mexican Trade Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told reporters that he hoped that the next round, to be held in Washington, DC in the week of 11 December, could see sufficient progress made that the agreement's Digital Trade chapter could be closed... all before the public has seen a single word of it.
The history of such predictions leads us to suspect that this may be an optimistic timeline, but the fact that the Minister made it at all does go to confirm that the Digital Trade chapter is seen as being uncontroversial in the negotiations. But it isn't unimportant. The provisions likely to be found in this chapter include some topics that are critical to the digital economy.
Some of these rules, depending on how they are worded, could be beneficial for the rights of users online. In particular, harmonizing at a higher level of safe harbor protection for platforms would boost protection for freedom of expression and human rights online, at the same time as helping online innovators and startups. In a joint letter sent to the USTR earlier this month, startup advocacy group Engine made a case for the inclusion of broad intermediary liability rules in NAFTA's Digital Trade chapter:
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