US president Bill Clinton will unveil an Internet policy white paper on Tuesday intended to create a framework for a tax-free, global electronic commerce industry run by the private sector.
The white paper is the result of over nine months of work by presidential special adviser Ira Magaziner and will become the cornerstone of all future US negotiations with other countries on matters relating to electronic commerce and the Internet.
The white paper will encourage greater private sector involvement in the development of the Internet infrastructure. A draft copy seen by the VNU NewsWire notes: ?For electronic commerce to flourish, the private sector must continue to lead?Accordingly, governments should encourage industry self regulation and support the efforts of private sector organisations to develop mechanisms to facilitate the successful operation of the Internet.?
Following on from this private sector emphasis is a commitment from the White House to avoid excessive regulatory action by government. ?Business models must evolve rapidly to keep pace with the breakneck speed of change in the techology,? argues the white paper. ?Government attempts to regulate are likely to be outmoded by the time they are finally enacted, especially to the extent such regulations are technology-specific.?
The Magaziner report admits that there will be occasions when government intervention is necessary, but this should only occur to ensure a set of specific goals: guarantee competition, protect intellectual property rights or privacy, prevent fraud and facilitate dispute resolution.
Mindful of the difficulties of policing the Net and with the controversial Communications Decency Act proving to be the most recent example of unworkable Internet legislation, the white paper warns against embarking on an electronic commerce revolution with any preconceptions that existing principles can be applied.
?We should not assume, for example, that the regulatory frameworks established over the past 60 years for telecommunications, radio and television fit the Internet,? it urges. ?Existing laws and regulations that may hinder electronic commerce should be reviewed and revised or eliminated to reflect the needs of the new electronic age.?
The Clinton administration will also declare its support for making the Internet a tax-free zone in order to encourage companies to make use of it for commerce. ?Many nations are looking for new sources of revenue and may seek to levy tariffs on global electronic commerce,? says the strategy document. ?The US will advocate in the World Trade Organisation?.that the Internet be declared a tariff-free environment whenever it is used to deliver products or services.
But it goes on to warn that the US and its supporters will have to act quickly: ?This principle should be estalished quickly before nations impose tariffs and before vested interests form to protect these tariffs.?
Previewing some of Tuesday?s announcements, US Commerce Secretary William Daley, said Clinton and vice president Al Gore wanted to set up the US as 'ambassadors of electronic commerce around the world.' This would necessitate ensuring that other countries follow the US line. 'We must work to ensure the approach to electronic commerce adopted by other nations is consistent with the principles and conditions we have cultivated,' Daley said.
While Silicon Valley seems certain to applaud the white paper?s principles, there will be little or no concession from the White House on the thorny issue of exporting encryption technology, vital if security fears about doing business on the Internet are to be addressed. Despite concessions offered to companies such as Microsoft and Netscape, the Clinton administration is maintaining its stance of firmly regulating the export of encryption products.
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