Press release: Tech Firms Seek to Hijack Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) Negotiations to Derail AI Oversight Via “Digital Trade” Rules

For Immediate Release: July 27, 2023

Press Contact:, (201) 819-2526


Tech Firms Seek to Hijack Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) Negotiations to Derail AI Oversight Via “Digital Trade” Rules
Rethink Trade Releases Report Revealing Industry Ploy to Internationally Preempt Government Action, Forbid Mandatory Government Pre-Reviews of AI, Algorithms 


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Industry interests hope to commandeer trade talks to lock in binding international rules that limit or outright ban government oversight or regulation of AI, according to a report released today the American Economic Liberties Project’s Rethink Trade program.


Undermining AI Regulation in the U.S. and Abroad: The “Digital Trade” Secrecy Ploy highlights how industry is pushing “digital trade” rules that forbid government access to source code or even detailed descriptions of algorithms, which are the tools needed to pre-screen the existing automated decision systems associated with biased policing and prosecution, employment discrimination, intrusive worker surveillance, and unfair lending and housing practices and review and carefully document new generative AI systems alike. The Biden administration’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights calls for pre-deployment testing, independent evaluations, algorithmic impact assessments, and ongoing monitoring of AI systems. All of these mechanisms would be thwarted by the “digital trade” rules industry seeks.


“Rethink Trade’s great new report demonstrates how corporate behemoth are experts at exploiting every single dark avenue to avoid regulation, and no avenue is darker than international trade deals,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). “Because for decades, corporations have turned to trade agreements, negotiated behind closed doors with undue secrecy and hundreds of corporate lobbyists as a backdoor to undermine the public interest. We’ve seen how corporate influence on trade deals can stymie progress at home and abroad.” 


“In public, Big tech interests are praising voluntary AI safety standards while behind closed doors they are using their lobbyists and money to lock in “digital trade” rules that forbid governments from regulating them and forestalling the threats they pose to our privacy, our kids’ safety, workers and democracy itself,” said Lori Wallach, Director of Rethink Trade.


“Leading AI companies just committed to share algorithmic information with society and to allow pre-deployment external evaluations of their systems. This voluntary agreement does not cover all firms deploying AI and also, if those who signed don’t follow through, the government must have the authority to require pre-deployment reviews and other safeguards to ensure AI systems are accurate, unbiased and ethical,” said Daniel Rangel, Research Director of Rethink Trade. “This critical AI oversight authority is precisely what would be undercut by the source code and algorithmic secrecy rules industry interests want included in IPEF and other trade deals. The stakes are very high.”


The report emphasizes how the rapid growth of AI-powered tools have helped foster biased policing, employment discrimination, intrusive worker surveillance, and unfair lending practices. While the United States and international governments have sought to introduce legislation to reign in these practices, corporations have fought back by pushing for binding international rules that excavate the policy space out from under Congress and U.S. government agencies and their counterparts worldwide. 


 To download a copy of the report and learn more about Rethink Trade’s work, please visit




The American Economic Liberties Project is a new, independent organization fighting against concentrated corporate power to realize economic liberty for all, in support of a secure, inclusive democratic society.


Rethink Trade was established to intensify analysis and advocacy regarding the myriad ways that today’s trade agreements and policies must be altered to undo decades of corporate capture and to deliver on broad national interests.


Learn more about Economic Liberties and Rethink Trade.

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