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Digital Trade Presents Opportunity To Deepen Ties With US

A new report exploring the barriers to New Zealand - United States digital trade has found that while there are a range of commercial challenges to work through, the export environment is generally very positive and puts the case for pursuing a formal digital trade agreement as a first step toward a broader Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The NZUS Council report Barriers to NZ-US Digital Trade: are there any? surveyed local digital companies that export to the US to get a picture of what issues, barriers and challenges they currently experience, and what the benefits could be of the two countries working together on a digital trade agreement.

"Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) exports to the US were worth half a billion dollars over the last 12-months, with computer software exports growing 17% and software licence exports up 65% over the same period. With our economy made up of mainly small and medium-sized businesses, digital trade can be the equalizer, overcoming the challenges of scale and distance from global markets in a way that only our largest companies and exporters were previously able to do," Executive Director Jordan Small says.

"There is no doubt that the US is a great market for our digital exporters. While there are some state level tax and legal complexities in play, and we need further improvements to work visa conditions compared to Australia, overall our digital exporters say they find the US relatively easy to access compared to physical good exporters.

"In our view the report confirms the benefits we see in New Zealand pursuing a digital services agreement with the US. We are two like-minded nations when it comes to issues such as data governance and sovereignty, privacy, and on emerging technology like artificial intelligence. An agreement that sets strong trade rules around digital trade can act as a global template, and also help put us on the pathway to a broader FTA with the US in the future."

In addition, the report notes that a formal digital trade agreement with the US could:

Establish a framework for paperless trading to reduce border processing time for shipments, lessen the risks of fraud, and reduce inefficiencies and disruptions in supply chains. The shift to paperless trade in global markets could reduce trade costs by up to 20 percent of the costs of physical transportation

Lock in current export-friendly settings, encouraging greater investment and innovation

Establish interoperability between digital systems in the two countries across areas such as electronic signatures, e-invoicing and digital identities

Open the platform for ongoing discussions on frontier digital and advanced technology issues, as policy and regulatory settings evolve over time.

"These are all strong reasons to put a digital trade deal firmly on the NZ-US agenda. Not only does it make sense to collaborate with the world’s leading exporter of digital services from a policy perspective, but ultimately this would create a more enabling environment for both New Zealand and the United States’ digital exports into other markets too," Jordan Small says.

A full copy of the report can be found here

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