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APEC 2023: A Useful and Realistic Digital Agenda for the United States’ Host Year

The U.S. State Department has highlighted three broad policy priorities—interconnection, innovation, and inclusion—to guide the United States during its year as host and chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The Biden administration, however, has not provided high-level direction for exactly what it hopes to achieve. Thankfully, this has not stopped the United States’ highly capable economic policy officials from laying the groundwork to make its APEC host year a success. The first APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) in Palm Springs included productive digital policy discussions. The United States should build on this momentum at SOM 2 and 3, the trade ministers meeting, and other meetings to push for a pragmatic, yet realistic, digital agenda that includes electronic invoices (e-invoices); electronic labels (e-labels); an Asia-Pacific regional data commons via data-sharing models, especially for health data; action on improving digital skills for the workforce; and cybersecurity for critical infrastructure and government services, among other measures.

But as Nigel Cory writes for The National Bureau of Asian Research, in looking ahead, the United States should be guided by a look back at APEC’s history on digital policies and the policy context of past U.S. host years in 1993 and 2011. In 1993, the global Internet, as we know it, was in its infancy. The 1993 Leaders’ Declaration is a snapshot—it mentions advances in telecommunications and economic interdependence, but not digital or data. In 2011, digital policies were front and central to both APEC and broader U.S. trade policy in the Asia-Pacific with the launch of the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) System and the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s chapter on e-commerce. Meanwhile, APEC’s digital policy agenda has evolved over time, with the last major change being the adoption of the APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap. The question is whether the Biden administration can seize the opportunity as host to leave its mark on the APEC digital agenda for the next several years.

Read the commentary.

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