Digital experts to help US firms abroad

WASHINGTON • The United States Commerce Department said it would begin deploying digital trade experts in overseas markets as part of a pilot programme intended to help US businesses navigate foreign Internet regulations when selling digital products or transferring data abroad.

The digital attaches will rely on "on-the-ground expertise" to provide export assistance to firms trying to understand and comply with another country's Internet policies, such as data localisation requirements, US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in an interview.

"This is a new area that needs more specialised attention," she added.

The pilot programme, announced on Friday, is to be launched in six to eight markets, including Brazil, China, Japan, India, the European Union and Asean, a Commerce Department spokesman said. Each market will have one attache.

The US exported about US$400 billion (S$549 billion) in digitally deliverable services in 2014, according to the Commerce Department.

The attaches are modelled after the department's foreign commercial service officers who already work to promote trade across other sectors of the economy, such as agriculture and pharmaceuticals, Ms Pritzker said.

"We'll have someone in that country, someone who will understand the specifics of how to sell your digital product," she said.

The move comes as the US and EU are working to implement the so-called "Privacy Shield" legal framework that will allow firms to easily transfer personal data across the Atlantic. The previous agreement, known as Safe Harbour, was struck down last year by the European Court of Justice following revelations about US surveillance programmes.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 13, 2016, with the headline 'Digital experts to help US firms abroad'. Print Edition | Subscribe