A paper released in July by educational publisher Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung of Brussels examines how “big tech” corporations work to use “trade” rules to allegedly rig the global digital economy to collect more data, exercise more control over people’s lives and over their workers, and amass ever more profit.

“Digital Trade Rules: A Disastrous New Constitution for the Global Economy, By and for Big Tech” was written by Deborah James of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. She claims companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft work to secure new accords at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that would allow them greater access to, and ownership of, data with minimal restrictions.

“These proposed rules are a grave threat to development, human rights, labor, and shared prosperity around the world,” says James, who is executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based center’s International Programs. “They are the very antithesis of the type of policies we need to rein in the cancerous and untrammeled growth of the power of Big Tech.”

She writes that, “When it was founded in 1995, new agreements within the WTO gave rights to the dominant industries at that time, such as agriculture, finance, services, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing. The technology industries lack such an agreement in the WTO and are seeking similar rules to these to liberalize the digitalization that is currently transforming the global economy, particularly the governance of today’s most valuable resource, which is data.”

Her report came as a group of 76 countries launched talks aimed at a digital trade agreement at the next WTO ministerial conference. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a WTO conference planned for June is Kazakhstan was postponed.



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