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6 Oct 2021

Deborah James

Report: A disasterous new constitution for the global economy written by and for Big Tech

Photo: Canva

'A disastrous new constitution for the global economy written by and for Big Tech', 8 July 2020

"The largest corporations in the history of the world – Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft – are seeking to use ‘trade’ rules to rig the rules of the global (digital) economy to enable them to collect more data, exercise more control over our lives and their workers, and amass ever more profit. More than 80 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are currently negotiating a new agreement on digital trade based on these proposals. This paper seeks to explain how these corporations operate in order to achieve their goals; what the potential impacts of the rules would be on workers, citizens, communities, developing countries, public services, safety and security, and democracy itself; what the alternatives are; and what we can do to stop this mass corporate takeover.

This paper was written towards the end of 2019. Today, in 2020, the world seems a different place, as we collectively experience the coronavirus crisis and new awareness about issues of racism and policy brutality. The crises have brought about new, and highlighted existing, urgent problems – often exacerbated by Big Tech’s iron grip on our economic and social lives...

...Online commerce is booming, but many technology start-ups and thousands of small businesses have been hit hard by the coronavirus economic shutdowns. On the contrary, Facebook, Google, and Amazon have seen their market shares and profits explode during the crisis...

...At the same time, WTO members have undertaken multiple rounds of negotiations with a view to drafting a new ‘plurilateral’ agreement on digital trade. They have negotiated draft texts in secret on 13 different provisions on data collection, liability, market access rights, non-discrimination, source code disclosure, taxes, cybersecurity and more – as described in this paper.

During these times of crisis, uncertainty, and rapid transformation, we need our governments to be able to respond more proactively to emerging problems. We need public interest concerns about economic rights, racial justice and fairness, and human, civil and political rights to be the focus of conversations about rewriting the rules governing data and technology.

To accomplish this, however, we need to ensure that corporations are unable to acquire new WTO ‘trade’ disciplines designed by Big Tech to consolidate their power over our economy and to limit democratic oversight in the public interest..."