In March 2016 the US Commerce Department announced a pilot program deploying six digital trade attachés in key markets for US Internet and digital trade interests. New York International checked in with Judy Renker at the US Commerce Department on the background and progress of this program.
US digital trade, with about $400 billion in services in 2014, has already surpassed regular trade according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute. The growing importance of digital trade has led to the creation of a digital economy leadership team and an advisory board within the Commerce Department. This team came up with the unique concept of digital attachés, who in collaboration with the State Department’s digital economy officers, address issues related to the digital economy and trade like local Internet and privacy policies, international data transfer and localization, or even public tenders in the digital space.
The digital attachés are based in Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing, New Delhi, Brussels and São Paulo. A training program on digital trade issues provides the basis for building local relations with influencers, identifying opportunities, and addressing challenges relevant for US companies. Opportunities can be something such as opening tender requirements for US companies to participate—as in the case of the Arlington-based data monitoring company O-Power, which later won the tender in the UK. One of the biggest challenges of the program is the new legal framework for transferring personal data across the Atlantic.
In October 2016 the digital economy leadership team will review the pilot program. In the so-called Written Impact Narratives (WIN) the digital attachés will self-assess their progress based on the Commerce Department’s success metrics. These metrics include the number of trade barriers addressed and an evaluation of the impact of the established network with local influencers.
The service is free for any US company as part of the Commerce Department’s commercial diplomacy efforts.