Rich countries plan exclusive e-commerce deal for global tech companies at Davos

January 29, 2019: The elite business and government World Economic Forum meeting last week was a perfect setting for Australia and 70 other mostly industrialised country governments to announce exclusive plans for an e-commerce trade deal that was rejected after fierce debate by the majority of the 164 WTO members who met in Argentina in December.

Civil society groups and unions criticised the announcement, saying the agenda was being set by global Big Tech companies based in industrialised countries that want to expand digital trade on their terms and reduce the ability of governments to regulate them in the public interest.

“The fourth industrial revolution is energising global corporations, as they look for new ways to harness our data, cut their costs and increasingly monopolise global trade. Of course it’s true that new technology carries with it the power to transform many people’s lives. But that will only happen if the monopoly exerted by the Big Tech companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google, and the new economy platforms like Uber and AirBnB, are regulated, taxed and, in some cases, broken up or face challenges from the public sector,” said Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now.

The International Trade Union Confederation added:

“The issues being discussed are not limited to the practicalities of trade, they are workers’ rights issues, data governance issues and they are privacy issues. Algorithmic bias, workplace surveillance, electronic union blacklisting are realities and workers need their governments to protect them. We must not allow for a future in which working people’s ability to hold the giants of the digital economy accountable is limited by trade agreements. Our governments must have full power to regulate…We have seen how the Ubers and the Amazons of this world exploit current loopholes to deteriorate the conditions of working people. Rather than facilitating this type of irresponsible behaviour, governments should redouble their efforts to close down these loopholes.”