On Friday afternoon, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released updated objectives for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Widely anticipated by industry and the trade community, the new objectives provide an overview of U.S. priorities for the agreement five negotiation rounds in. Under the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, USTR must “regularly update” the public on U.S. objectives following the start of negotiations. Prior to Friday’s release, USTR had not yet fulfilled this obligation with respect to NAFTA, and Senator Ron Wyden recently pressed USTR to comply with this aspect.
After concerning reports about the removal of critical safe harbors for online intermediaries in the earlier rounds and a lack of clear commitments in the original set of priorities released in July, USTR’s commitment to modernizing the agreement to better reflect the digital economy was questionable. These updated objectives represent significant progress on digital trade priorities and shed necessary light on the ongoing process, but the objectives still fall short with respect to ensuring liability protections for intermediaries for third party content paralleled in U.S. law.