Washington DC
06 June 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

NAFTA should be modernised, says Internet Association


The Internet Association has called for amendments that will secure a more modern version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Last month, US President Donald Trump called for negotiations between NAFTA signatories the US, Canada and Mexico to begin “as soon as practicable” and outlined a need for “modernisation”. Scrapping or renegotiating the agreement was one of his key campaign promises.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has triggered a 90-day consultation period that must conclude before negotiations can officially begin. This period ends on 16 August.

The Internet Association, which counts Google, Amazon and eBay as members, has released a whitepaper coinciding with this consultation period that outlines several amendments to modernise NAFTA, including in intellectual property.

The association targeted fair use and safe harbours as key to the modernisation of NAFTA, arguing that the agreement must be updated to ensure IP rules work for the digital environment.

It said that a world without fair use would “doom the internet economy and US innovation leadership”.

“In the US, industries that benefit from fair use and other copyright limitations generate $4.5 trillion in annual revenue and employ one in eight US workers.”

“But foreign trading partners often lack such limitations and exceptions, which can limit the export strength of these US industries. It is widely recognised that without fair use, many leading US internet services would never have emerged,” the association added.

Mexico must also introduce copyright safe harbours to avoid US service providers being held liable for infringement, even if they have a system in place to remove infringing content.

Finally, the Internet Association outlined a need for proportionality and due process in copyright enforcement. It said that if damages are not properly calibrated, they can have a “stifling effect on innovation and legitimate services”.

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